I attended CES Unveiled in New York this week, which is a preview of what will be featured at the CES in Las Vegas in January 2017. CES, previously known as the Consumer Electronics Show, is celebrating a 50 year anniversary, having been born in Manhattan in 1967 when transistor radios, stereos, and black-and-white TVs were all the rage. Today, CES is the world’s largest innovation event, and the longest-lived. 10 of the original 1967 exhibitors still show at CES, including 3M, Philips, Sharp, SONY, Toshiba, and Westinghouse, among others.

img_3359Meet George Jetson, who might have been an attendee at the 1967 Consumer Electronics Show. He would feel transported into another universe at the 2017 CES, which will feature 3-D printing, drones, driverless and connected cars, high-res audio, virtual and artificial reality devices, and 5G connectivity.

And did I mention digital health? This category continues to expand at CES 2017, with the kind of double-digit growth seen at CES in 2015 and 2016.

Dr. Shawn DuBravac, the Consumer Technology Association’s chief economist, discussed 2017 Tech Trends to Watch at CES Unveiled. CE sales for the holiday season will grow overall 3.8%. While retail sales for the electronics sub-segment (THINK: the traditional, legacy CES categories) are expected to decline 2.9% this season, it’s the new-new stuff that will see growth on Black Friday 2016 and through December. What’s remarkable this season is where and how people will buy the shiny new things for the holidays: online will be 16.4%up, and mobile channels? An astonishing growth of 45.2% over last year, DuBravac forecasted.

2016-holiday-outlook-25-638-innovation-for-the-holidaysFast-growing products will be wearable activity trackers, smartwatches, smart thermostats, and 3-D printers: about 12.6 mm fitness trackers are expected to be sold for the holidays, and 5.5 mm smartwatches, based on CES’s projections shown in the third graphic.

Digital health will once again figure prominently on the CES show floor. This year, a Sleep Tech Marketplace will bring the various representatives from this slice of the health/care market together: sleep trackers, alarms, smart beds, and other technologies to help support peoples’ sleep – where sleeplessness is rampant and a major risk factor for many health conditions. This part of CES will be presented in concert with the National Sleep Foundation, with whom CES will work to support the development of standards for what constitutes good sleep.

2breathetechnologies_2I met with one of the Eureka Park start-up companies, 2breathe, which is devoted to helping people fall and stay asleep. The product received one of this year’s CES 2017 Innovation Awards. The backstory about 2breathe is similar to what often happens in innovation: a technology is developed for one purpose, and then is found to work for a different use. In the case of 2breathe, the device’s provenance was in hypertension in a device called RESPeRATE, an FDA-approved device for consumers managing high blood pressure. The developers and patients found one “side effect” that the device had: people fell asleep when they were using it. So, like many other medical treatments that serendipitously morph from one condition to another, RESPeRATE was reconfigured and redesigned into 2breathe. As the founder said, they turned the side effect into a product feature.

Another sign that health is alive and well at CES is that one of the major keynote speakers will be Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour, who will speak about technology’s role in shaping personal performance.

pilldrill-adI also met with the developer of PillDrill, which is working to solve the huge challenge of medication adherence. People not taking medications as prescribed in the U.S. is a $300 bn problem leading to adverse events, mortality, hospital admissions, productivity challenges at work, and reduced quality of life. PillDrill isn’t a smart/IoT style pill bottle like AdhereTech or Vitality Glowcap. This device works more simply than that, and has a form factor that many old school patients might like: a tray with the days of the week storing meds for the day. But each of the day-bottles has a sensor which can be swiped over the hub, recording that the dose was taken by the patient. In addition, there is a six-sided cube (like a large die) featuring a continuum of five moods, from “great,” “good,” “OK,” “bad,” and “awful.” By scanning the mood via the hub, a loved one or clinician or health coach can track how the patient is doing on their meds and whether an adjustment is required. PillDrill was also named a 2017 CES Innovation Honoree.

Here’s CTA’s video on the digital health and fitness presence expected at CES 2017.

fcc_map_7jan2015Health Populi’s Hot Points:  Innovation in the health economy is crucial given that America spends too much of its GDP on healthcare, and receives too little in terms of outcomes, access, and equity. CES has significantly grown its role to foster digital consumer innovation, and importantly, to foster innovation in health and health care, as well.

As CES looks to President Elect Trump to prioritize infrastructure investment, it will be key for the next President to go beyond asphalt and steel (the infrastructure components with which Builder Trump is most familiar). Another crucial infrastructure investment for the overall economy and particularly for health is broadband access to every corner of the U.S. In DuBravac’s words, broadband and Wi-FI adoption are modern day electrification and indoor plumbing. The FCC broadband map has a lot of the color blue in it and that’s lack of broadband in those parts of America. That’s a lot of blue.

In my words, broadband connectivity is a social determinant of health as I wrote in The Huffington Post. We can’t fully utilize or benefit from all the wondrous digital innovations emerging from CES and CTA members if the very users of the technologies — people, consumers, and caregivers all — cannot access them.