CES Unveiled is like a mini show before the show. Members of the media get to take a look at wares from a selection of companies that exhibit in a large ballroom at the Mandalay Bay.
Exhibitors ranged from established big-wigs like Dell and LG, to rising stars like Benjilock, and start-ups showcasing their latest Kickstarter or Indiegogo projects.
This year, digital health ruled the roost. At every turn was a product meant to help cure some ailment - everything from allergies to incontinence. It's an interesting segment because technology has tremendous opportunities to change the face of the medical industry, and health care as we know it, potentially detecting illnesses and diseases before they fully develop, preventing accidents, and creating a better synergy between doctor and patient. But some of the gadgetry makes you scratch your head.
Here are some of the most interesting health tech innovations from the event.
The Tivic Health ClearUp Sinus Pain Relief device looks like an aspirator, but you don't actually have to shove it up your nose and depress for a spray to help free your sinuses. Rather, you turn it on, press it to your cheek, and glide it along your nasal passages. It delivers low-current electrical stimulation called microcurrent that stimulates the nerves to purportedly relieve sinus pain. I gave it a try, but it's hard to determine if it's working effectively unless you're currently suffering from sinus pain and pressure. It's mainly designed for those who suffer from allergic rhinistis, and has been cleared by the FDA (no Canadian clearance just yet, but a company rep says they're working on it.) It has three intensity levels, and an easy one-button control. After each use, just wipe it down with a sanitizing alcohol wipe. It will be available in mid-2019 for US$149.
Last year, the Willow Breast Pump got a lot of attention. This year, there's another player in town: Elvie, which introduced its automatic breast pump. A nursing mother can charge it up, place two in her bra, put on a shirt, and go about her day, discreetly pumping as needed. The rep showing me the unit was wearing two, and I'd never have known had she not told me. It works with a partner app that will keep track of pumping status and history. Each one comes with two bottles for storage, a breast shield (two size options), hub, two valves, two spouts, two seals, two storage lids, two bra adjusters, a USB charging cable, and convenient carry bag. It will be available early this year, for about US$500 for a set of two.
Withings is back! After being bought out by Nokia, dissolved, then resurrected by its original owner, the French company has a host of new health and wellness devices. Among them is the BPM Core smart blood pressure monitor with ECG and a digital stethoscope. It can record not only blood pressure once wrapped around your arm, but also ECG through a separate sensor for afib detection. The digital stethoscope touches to the side of your body as you measure blood pressure to check for valvular heart disease risk. The benefit, says the rep, is that you might detect something, but can't replicate it when you visit your doctor. The app records every measurement, than you can present the data to your doctor.
In the traditional wearables space, there's the Withings Move ECG, an activity watch that also has sensors that can measure your ECG from your wrist. Just press and hold the buttons for 20 seconds to record the data. It can instantly detect atrial fibrillation, and, like most other trackers, can track steps, stair climbs, sleep, workouts, and more. Plus, it uses a coin cell battery which means it can last for up to 12 months before it needs recharging. And it's water-resistant up to 50 metres. It will be available in the U.S. in Q2 for US$429.
EyeQue offers a set of trackers you can use at home to check your eyesight, record the measurements, and use the results to order glasses online (where an official prescription isn't required). It starts with the basic Personal Vision Tracker, which sells for US$30, and goes up to the latest models for US$90. It might not be advisable to skip the eye doctor altogether, given that they measure for things like eye disease and other issues. But if you want a cheap secondary pair of glasses with proper lenses, this might be a handy solution.
Dubbed a toilet-timing predictive device, D Free is designed for those who suffer from incontinence, like the elderly or disabled. The sensor uses ultrasound to track bladder movements, collects data and analyzes it using an algorithm in a cloud server, then notifies the wearer via smartphone before they should head to the toilet. Silly or truly useful?
Every man shaves, and Gillette has come up with a neat option in its heated razor, which can be heated from 113-122 degrees to add some comforting heat to the experience. As a man shaves his beard, mustache, or head, it can be a lot simpler (and cleaner) that constantly wetting the blade with hot water, or using a comforting hot towel at the end of the process. Of course it would take some true hands-on time to determine how effective it is. On the gifting side, Gillette was also showcasing some unique 3D-printed, customizable razors.