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Health tech will redefine 2022

Society is being reshaped through technology, and nowhere more than in health, going by the trends revealed at CES, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Innovation in health and wellness tracking and management will be a major driver of technology in 2022. According to the organisers of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world’s largest launchpad of new consumer technology, staged in Las Vegas this month, the world is witnessing nothing less than the reshaping of society through technology.

“At CES 2022 this week, we will be immersed in the innovation that will reshape our societies and solve fundamental human challenges in the decades to come,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), during a state of the industry address at the start of the event. “These technologies are making us better – improving what we as human beings are capable of doing.”

Returning to an in-person event after being staged virtually in 2021, CES saw numerous major companies withdraw their physical presence as a result of a Covid-19 infections surge. However, despite the likes of Microsoft Lenovo, Intel, Amazon, GM, and Google opting for a virtual presence, the event hosted more than 2300 exhibitors, including 800 startups.

According to CTA vice president of market research Steve Koenig, the US consumer technology industry is projected to generate a record $505-billion in retail sales revenue in 2022, driven by strong demand for smartphones, automotive tech, health devices and streaming services. This growth will spill over to the rest of the world.

A whitepaper released during CES by American market research firm Parks Associates in association with Israeli health monitoring company EarlySense, titled “Health at Home: New Era of Healthcare”, foresees massive expansion of healthcare into the home.

“The pandemic has forever changed the trajectory of health and wellness,” said Jennifer Kent, Parks Associates vice president of research. “The industry is undergoing a shift as consumers, especially seniors, have become accustomed to using new technologies for healthcare services and communication. Out of necessity, the market for remote health technology products and services accelerated 5-10 years beyond where we expected it to be pre-pandemic.”

According to Parks Associates, a confluence of factors is driving the shift, including regulatory changes, new funding, staffing shortages, device innovation and consumer demand.

Within the health segment, a standout category at CES was sleep technology, which saw numerous innovations in both tracking and improving sleep.

Evosonics, a Korean “sound vibration-based healthcare company’, unveiled a wide range of rehabilitation, obesity management and sleep tech devices, including Evo Sleep, a pillow that applies sound wave vibration with a cervical spine management product called Rolling Pillow, to improve sleep.

The company says it has also grafted its smart-based acoustic vibration system to “beauty sheets, shampoo sheets and esthetic beds”.

Sleep technology company Sleepme debuted a new version of a temperature-regulating sleep system called Dock Pro, which includes a mattress pad with cooling capacity and sound output that has been compared to the sound of light rain. It uses what it has dubbed Hydrolayer Technology to increase cooling surface area and breathable material.

It is paired with the sleepme Insight, a non-intrusive tracker that fits underneath a mattress pad to monitor, catalogue and report on a variety of health and sleep-related metrics, including heart rate, respiratory rate, in-bed temperature, deep and REM. Using near real-time sleep data and machine learning algorithms, it automatically changes bed temperature to optimise for deep and REM sleep.

“Because every person sleeps differently, and can require unique habits to help them achieve optimal sleep, each user benefits from personalized temperature adjustments,” said Robbie Falls, Sleepme vice president of product.

From the bedroom to the bathroom: Baracoda Daily Healthtech introduced the Bathroom of the Future, a connected ecosystem of products that privately collects data from devices like smart mirrors, scales, thermometers and toothbrushes.

Among other, it launched:

  • BBalance, the first designer-style connected bath mat with AI and footprint recognition. It can let one know if a child needs bigger shoes, a grandmother is at risk of falling, and if yoga or other activity has improved spine health.
  • BCool, the first eco-friendly, battery-free, mercury-free, connected thermometer.
  • Artemis,a smart mirror, notifies a user that, for example, a mole on the chin is changing colour and recommends a dermatologist appointment.

Said Thomas Serval, CEO and cofounder of Baracoda: “The big picture for healthtech and devices that keep track of biorhythms and habits is to move toward technology as the driver for prevention and wellness, to change lives and empower self-care, and to make this technology affordable and accessible to those who need it most.”

Baracoda also partnered with Colgate-Palmolive for connected health in oral care, with the latter displaying the Smart Rhythm toothbrush, named among the CES 2022 Innovation Awards for bringing smart electric toothbrush-tracking technology to the mainstream.

Monitoring is the core intention of most healthtech, with companies from outside the sector also weighing in.

Powercast, a leader in radio frequency wireless power, displayed 3D-printed wearables that monitor biomedical signals. Developed by University of Arizona researchers, and using wireless power technology to keep the discreet wearables continually charged, these are custom-made for each person, using 3D printing and flexible circuits. The flexible devices can be worn anywhere on the body for several months, enabling at-home diagnosis and disease management, as well as helping improve athletic training.

It includes inertial measurement units and strain sensors that can capture gait and performance of individual muscle groups, and high-resolution temperature sensors able to detect subtle changes in body temperature.

Traditional fitness technology continues evolving, with audio leaders Jabra unveiling the Jabra Elite 4 Active wireless earbuds, promising to bring its Elite Active range to a broader audience. The new edition has an IP57-rated water and sweatproof durability, meaning that it can be submerged in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes.

The earbuds include HearThrough technology, which allows one to listen to music or take calls while remaining aware of surroundings when running on the road. Its 4-microphone system is protected by a special mesh covering for wind noise protection during calls.

Calum MacDougall, Jabra SVP, said, “We all understand the importance of keeping fit and healthy, but working at your own pace is essential. The new Jabra Elite 4 Active offers a relatable alternative for those who love an active lifestyle.”

Many of these innovators face massive competition from the likes of Fitbit and Apple in wearable tracking and training technology, but growing demand suggests there is room for all.

The new “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2022” report released by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) this month identified wearable tech as the new top trend in fitness for 2022. A survey of 4,500 health and fitness professionals, it reiterated the finding that both sleep and exercise contribute to a healthy immune system, which is critical in the ongoing battle with Covid-19. Crucially, it found more people turning to their smartwatch or fitness tracker to monitor exercise and sleep quality – and this trend will accelerate.

Coming close behind wearables among 43 potential trends measured, home exercise gyms came second, with outdoor exercise at number 3. Online live and on-demand exercise classes, which leaped to the top of the rankings in 2021 thanks to Covid-19, dropped dramatically to number 9 in expectations for this year.

Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube.

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