5 Trends that defined Digital Health, Connected Health & Wellness at CES
By Susan Schreiner
CES 2021 has come and gone, and while this year it was virtual, it was still the most exciting place to see more and newer technologies and their conceptual and real-life implementations than at any other show. As we ‘walked’ this virtual show, it did not disappoint. We’re always on the lookout for the ‘next big thing’ – for what is groundbreaking innovation, what’s a fad, or for what portends a new trend with unlimited fresh and dynamic new channel business/revenue opportunities. The ‘hero’ of CES 2021 was digital health – and it is the ‘next big thing.’ HealthTech is becoming consumerized and offers retail channels new opportunities. Many of these HealthTech products with services are looking to be sold through mainstream channels. Just check out Best Buy, Target, Walmart, CVS and others that are leading the way. The novel coronavirus pandemic upended our world in so many ways, and technology became ever more integrated into individuals’ lives and into society – and as overwhelmed healthcare systems quickly shifted to digital alternatives for outpatient care and engagement. The convergence between COVID-19 with other conditions, and an ongoing aging population, is accelerating the market expansion for the HealthTech category. Home healthcare and connected digital health devices became the ‘last mile,’ or touchpoint, between the physician, provider, caretaker and consumer. It transformed our assumptions about how and where healthcare should be delivered. In most cases, visits to the doctor’s office were replaced by telehealth to avoid further overwhelming health facilities and to avoid contagion. It also became the new normal way to safely manage one’s health at home, including acute and chronic conditions. Overall, HealthTech will become a ‘big’ market. This was recently underscored by Grand View Research; it is projecting that the digital health market is expected to grow to $509.2 billion, with a CAGR of 27.7% by 2025.
Sharp’s Alexa enabled Countertop Microwave Oven
Tech at the Center As we started to see at CES 2021, AI and IoT are going to be embedded in everything, and the data generated is expected to more accurately predict one’s wellness. It will also increase the demand for a growing range of appliances, consumer electronics, devices and wearables. In addition, the reality of 5G is coming closer to realization, and it is going to enable most of these applications to happen. Additional opportunities for the channels abound as HealthTech is also changing the wellness and fitness paradigm, with adjacent categories gaining momentum. This includes new applications for a range of robotics, air filtration systems, new categories of IoT wearables, and other devices with software that personalize the experience – and so much more.
CES 2021 Product Roundup: Manifestation of 5 Trends This past year changed everything – but it is also propelling a massive market expansion, and tremendous channel opportunities. In this new climate, channels need to start to think out of the box and along multiple dimensions – as overlapping marketplaces are demanding similar products. Consider what your local or regional opportunities are within this context (e.g., some mainstream verticals include assisted living facilities, gerontology practices, businesses that self-insure. etc.).
1. Consumers are spending more time at home –
and consumer tech devices have become necessities. More than any other CES, the 2021 event reflected the influence of the pandemic on our lifestyle, how we work and how our children learn – since we are spending more time at home. HealthTech innovations from brand names as well as HealthTech entrepreneurs and startups abounded, with several companies on the lookout for distribution partners. People were homebound. Demand surged for broadband connected entertainment, including gaming devices, and for larger screens for streaming and TV. At CES 2021, we saw lines of beautiful upgraded TVs with new technologies and form factors coming in 4K and 8K. Also, products with services for the smart home are getting particularly attractive, with meaningful functions.
2. Staying Fit and Well, and the Digital Consumer – During these tumultuous times, personal wellbeing took on a whole new meaning. Overnight, consumers were ordering new devices, appliances and ingredients to bake and cook as never before. While gyms were closed, people brought the gym home – resulting in an uptick in sales of Peloton, Echelon and other stationary exercise bikes and home fitness equipment. Samsung introduced its new Smart Trainer feature on the Health platform for its 2021 TV models. The feature transforms the home into a personal gym and tracks and analyzes posture in real time, like a personal trainer. It also provides feedback on form, counts reps and estimates calories burned during exercise. The feature can be voice controlled. Sharp offers a full product lineup across various relevant sectors – but countertop convection microwave ovens are still big business, as people spend much more time at home – including working from home – and want to quickly warm up water for tea or steam veggies for a healthy snack. Among new models are the company’s Alexa-enabled countertop ovens.
3. A Focus on Health and Home Cleanliness – The pandemic heightened consumer awareness of home cleanliness and the air we breathe. The show was filled with lots of new devices, gadgets and disinfecting robots along those lines. Samsung demonstrated an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered robotic vacuum cleaner that uses sensors, including Lidar, to clean around toys, pets and other items. Clean Air Zone (CAZ) introduced its air purification system using advanced microbiotic and enzyme green technology to capture and destroy airborne contaminants including COVID-19, viruses, mold, odors, chemical fumes and gases – without the use of filters or harmful by-products. It earned two awards at the show, and captured the 2021 CES Editors’ Choice Award from Renewed, USA Today’s consumer product reviews division under the Cleaning category. CAZ also earned a Techlicious Top Picks of CES 2021 Award in the Health & Beauty category. Look for it to be available later this year for $1,495. LG announced new products featuring “air-management technology,” including portable air purifiers and purifiers with new HEPA filters. In addition, the brand’s washing machines have a new allergen-cycle feature, which LG claims removes 95 percent of household allergens. LG also announced a robot that uses UV light to sanitize hotel rooms. Other products due for introduction include disinfecting robots, UV sanitizers, and more.
4. Technology Continues to Improve Everyday Health & Wellness – Mindful self-awareness is a growing category, and a growing range of products were shown at CES and elsewhere. Touchpoint devices fall into this category. Also, robotic caretakers is going to be a category expected to grow in popularity, particularly as people choose to age-in-place safely, ensuring they are less isolated and cared for happily since they are connected to their family, friends, caretakers and to ongoing external activities – all in the convenience of their homes. CareClever introduced Cutii – an autonomous voice-command mobile robot companion for seniors. Cutii uses AI to learn the user’s behaviors and preferences – and as the user speaks, Cutii responds and moves as needed. Consumers can also use its voice commands, for example, to ask Cutii to come to them or to dictate and send a message to a friend. The robot can remind users of appointments or other events, such as family birthdays, according to CareClever. Users can enjoy virtual visits with family and friends. Caregivers can use their cell phones to communicate with seniors, by video, voice, or message via Cutii. Loved ones can make video calls and can even ask Cutii to move to better accommodate users in their homes – something a tablet or smart speaker can’t do. The robot can also call emergency contact numbers. Simply by saying “Cutii, help!” the senior will be attended to without needing to struggle to find a button. And with Cutii, entertaining brain exercises are just a command away. Cutii offers a calendar of real-world activities such as cooking or yoga classes, museum tours, and quizzes that seniors can participate in from the comfort of their homes. In addition, Cutii allows remote patient monitoring (RPM) through telehealth consultations which can be scheduled and conducted from the home. It also includes privacy safeguards and does not rely on major technology companies’ services such as Amazon Alexa. No personal data will be sold to marketers or other third parties, said the company. Cutii is currently available and has been deployed in homes as well as in senior living communities. HD Medical announced the HealthyU – a cardiac monitoring device that can track seven biometrics at home. The COVID-19 pandemic stripped hospitals of resources and kept many medically vulnerable patients at home. But even in healthier times, patients that lived far away from specialists traveled long distances to visit their doctors for frequent follow-up appointments. This especially applies to patients with cardiovascular disease. If symptoms come and go, it’s very easy for a clinician to miss them. Constant monitoring is key. HealthyU has a seven-lead ECG and can also monitor blood pressure, respiratory rate, lung sounds, heart sounds, heart rate, SpO2, and temperature. HD Medical expects FDA clearance by Q2 2021. Last July, the FDA cleared HD Medical’s flagship product, the HD Stethelectronic smart stethoscope. HealthyU is already being used in clinical evaluations, and the company is currently in talks with partners in the wellness and professional sports fields. Now you won’t have to wake up five hours in advance of an appointment, just to have a doctor listen for a few minutes and declare that “all is well.” What else is coming? New ‘brains’ to drive transformation, and new products for you to sell! Ordinary wearables may soon track blood pressure and other vital signs. While you might not recognize Valencell as a brand name, it’s likely that you are familiar with its sensor technology, if you’ve worn a Scosche armband, Jabra or Bose headphones, or a Suunto sport watch. The North Carolina–based company is introducing its expanded blood pressure sensor kit for wrist-based wearables and those worn on the finger. This goes beyond its 2020 introduction of sensors that were designed primarily for ear-based devices. This enhanced capability is based on its new blood pressure sensors that measure heart rate and oxygen uptake. There’s also a software component that allows for personalization based on a person’s height, weight, age, and gender to enable accurate estimations of blood pressure, and more. The company expects FDA clearance in early 2021. Watch for new fitness trackers, smartwatches, and smart rings that may soon monitor EKG, blood oxygen levels, and blood pressure — making them increasingly more worthy of their “smart” moniker. Here are some highlights of other companies making news. Oticon introduced the first Internet-connected hearing aids. Philips introduced a range of healthcare and especially telehealth, virtual care, remote patient monitoring and mobile and flexible care solutions that all have seen a tremendous acceleration due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic. P&G introduced upgrades to its Oral Care products, a category garnering particular attention during these times. Stay tuned! There’s more to come.
An AirPop cloth mask with a unique sensor that monitors breathing patterns from inside the mask
CareClever introduced Cutii – an autonomous voice-command mobile robot companion for seniors. Cutii uses AI to learn the user’s behaviors and preferences – and as the user speaks, Cutii responds and moves as needed.
5. Concern About Being in Public Spaces. Masks Everywhere – In the age of COVID-19, face coverings are going ‘tech.’ They have become not only a medical gadget but also the latest wearable fashion accessory. And there was no shortage at CES 2021. Razer, a company most known for its gamer products, made a somewhat unusual product introduction with its “Project Hazel” – a smart mask that’s transparent and features active ventilation to circulate and filter the air. It also contains a built-in microphone and amp to make speech clearer. Plus, it lights up in 16.8 million different colors. AirPop announced a face wearable called the Active+. It’s a cloth mask with a unique sensor that monitors breathing patterns from inside the mask – and it provides information on air quality from outside the mask. It was expected to start shipping in mid-February at $149; it will be selling via Amazon, and is looking for distribution. Nexvoo, a HealthTech company, announced a face mask called Breeze ($79) that’s transparent to show off the wearer’s smile. It has two silent fans that both circulate and filter the air, and a UV light to automatically disinfect the mask while it’s charging.
If we learned anything in 2020, it’s that consumers play a pivotal role in their own health and wellness. In 2019, Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, said: “With the state of the world, every company is a software company.” In that vein, at CES 2021, we observed the trend that many CE and tech companies are now also HealthTech companies. The pandemic has been a catalyst for change – changing the way people work, socialize and unwind. Consequently, consumer reactions, habits, work, lifestyle and other needs are fueling spending and demand for HealthTech products. HealthTech is growing into a big business – with tremendous potential for sector and channel growth. Retailers’ job is to identify the products and/or categories best suited for their customers, and that will also offer new business development opportunities in the mainstream as well as in other vertical regional or local business segments, including with employers that self-insure, or senior facilities. How will you be a beneficiary of this new transformation? What’s your strategy? What’s your game plan? Many companies stepped up to deliver new product offerings that are here, emerging or are looking to enter our marketplace. We will be tracking these developments in upcoming columns. Stay tuned! To continue the conversation, Schreiner may be reached at susan@C4trends.com