Journalists and industry analysts from around the globe have come to Las Vegas which, this week, is the mecca for new-new electronic things that companies think consumers will be keen to buy. On media day 1, I spoke with a colleague from the Netherlands who covers audio, a sector that’s certainly in disruption; an automotive analyst from India covering autonomous vehicles; and, a mobile tech guru based in Dubai, to identify just a few of my media friends who have gathered here to research and write on their respective beats.

In these conversations, there are some common buzzwords floating around at CES 2018, crossing all industry sectors including (alphabetically) 3D printing, AI (artificial intelligence), AR (augmented reality), autonomous, blockchain, drones, platforms, and “smart” (used as an adjective), among the most-overheard themes. For health/care, all of these are relevant depending on the consumer, and I expect to hear these concepts peppered throughout conversations I’ve scheduled with various connected health tech developers and service providers this week.

CTA’s Steve Koenig and Lesley Rohrbach presented their annual market research findings in a presentation on CES 2018 Tech Trends, which forecasts trends and sales projections in over 300 tech categories.

“CES has become the showcase for the continuum of consumer technology,” they began, identifying “three parts” of consumer tech: “ingredients,” like 5G, AI, and robotics, which are the base platform enablers of tech development; “in-the-market,” such as native interfaces and realism redefined; and, “emerging tech” innovations like smart cities, sports innovation (think: VR/AR during a World Cup football match), and digital therapeutics.

5G communication infrastructure is very important for healthcare, bringing higher speeds, greater capacity, and lower latency. Consider this during a virtual, robotic surgery conducted between a rural-living patient and physician and an urban surgical specialist-mentor in a city, working collaboratively in real-time. A resilient, consistent, fast network is a must-have for this scenario to be safe and sustainable.

How fast is 5G? Consider how long it would take to download the two-hour long movie, Guardians of the Galaxy: in 3G, 26 hours; in 4G, 6 minutes; and in 5G, 3.6 seconds.

That’s a key base enabling technology for connected health. An important streamlining innovation is voice-enablement, with the market poster child being Amazon Echo and Alexa. Personal voice-enabled assistants are growing at hockey-stick pace, Koenig observed, at 270% growth in 2017, and an expected 60% increase in 2018. Many CES exhibitors this season will feature smart homes fitted with voice-enabled smart products and applications. Alexa will be joined by Microsoft Cortana, Google Assistant, Samsung Bixby, and other new digital assistant personae.


The health/care applications for smart home IoT are many, on the continuum from healthy living to safe aging.  Interestingly for Health Populi’s health care industry readers, “tablestakes” for smart home developments will be interoperability — a long-term challenge for health IT.

Digital assistants will go beyond the home to occupy more “vessels,” as Koenig explained — especially cars. I’ll be spending time this week assessing the “fourth space” of the auto as a wellness environment.

Robots, too, are proliferating in the consumer market, and have health care relevance, too. Robots like Mayfield Robotics’ Kuri (“a cross between R2D2 and E.T.”) can be a “family friend,” a camera and life-recorder, the “life of the party” as music player, and/or a home video connection — think medication adherence, for example.


Among CES’s 300+ tech forecasts is digital therapeutics, aka “software as medicine.” Digital tx can be standalone treatments, connected solutions, supportive health apps, efficiency tools, safety managers, and compliance enablers. They should be validated by clinical evidence to demonstrate positive impacts on health outcomes.


reSET – Prescription Digital Therapeutic (PRNewsfoto/Pear Therapeutics)

Chronic conditions especially stand to be impacted by digital therapeutics; consider conditions that are highly amenable to lifestyle changes, such as diabetes, heart disease, and sleep disorders. Furthermore, CES this week will feature innovations that address pain management (speaking directly to opioid addiction) and mental/behavioral health. Note that PEAR Therapeutics raised $50 mm last week to further its work in addiction treatment; the graphic illustrates how reSET, Pear Therapeutics’ addiction treatment, fits into the healthcare process.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  CES in health/care is evolving toward more healthcare beyond fitness and wellness, with innovations from Samsung focusing on respiratory health care monitoring, L’Oreal and Neutrogena working on skincare health, and ecosystem partnerships like Philips and American Well working together to expand the virtual health supply side.

To enhance that point, CES added a Disruptive Innovations in Healthcare education track, which will feature hospitals, healthcare providers, life science companies and other stakeholders mature in the legacy healthcare system – names like Mayo Clinic, George Washington University, the FDA, and Walgreens, among others.

I note that this year CES is raising more questions about societal impacts of technology – such as social inclusion for financial services, social impacts of technology on kids, and how to bake empathy into AI and tech development. One example that’s encouraging won the 2018 CES “Tech for a Better World” Award, My Special Aflac Duck. Working with Sproutel, Aflac created this smart robotic companion was built to be a caring companion for children with cancer. For many years, Aflac as as corporation has been active in funding cancer research and support. Here’s a video to delight you.

Long-time Health Populi readers may recall my affection for Sproutel’s Jerry the Bear, who was an early pioneer for play among sick kids.