New health devices are front and center at this week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES), reflecting the overwhelming, ongoing convergence of medical devices with information technology as well as their ever-growing consumerization. Everything from the latest pain management devices to a soft, smartphone-connected thermometer patch to a wearable, automated calorie tracker will be showcased by startups. In addition, conglomerate Siemens will debut smart hearing aids at CES, which runs from Jan. 6 to Jan. 9 in Las Vegas, NV.
|Temptraq--Courtesy of Blue Spark|
Blue Spark Technology will debut its smart, wearable, Bluetooth-connected thermometer. Dubbed the TempTraq, the company said this technology is the first of its kind. It's a soft patch that can be continuously worn for up to 24 hours that is currently under FDA review.
The TempTraq uses a printed, flexible battery and connects to an Apple ($AAPL) or Android app to track temperature changes. Users press a start button and connect to the app via a unique code provided by the company. It shows both real-time and historical temperature data as a graph or in a table and can send alerts; data can be emailed through the app to a third party such as a physician.
The smartphone app tracks data with the smartphone from up to 40 feet away. The patch is placed in the underarm and is expected to be particularly useful for children. It measures temperatures between 86.0°F and 108.3°F. It also offers color-coding of green for less than 100.4°F, orange for equal to or greater than 100.4°F and red for an individually designated temperature.
Another device, which is eliciting anticipation along with skepticism, is the GoBe, which purports to automatically track calories--the Holy Grail for users interested in weight loss but who are not rigorous enough to track their food intake accurately. BBC recently put the GoBe, from startup Healbe, to the test and found that it was roughly accurate when worn by the company's co-founder George Mikaberydze to track the calories in a meal selected by BBC. The calorie intake function is said to be based on measuring glucose level in the cells.
The company said that based on its testing, the GoBe is 84% to 93% accurate in measuring calorie intake, nutritional intake and calories burned. In addition to those, the $299 wrist-worn device is also said to measure heart rate, stress level, hydration levels and quality of sleep.
The GoBe is supposed start shipping this month, according to Healbe's website. Like BBC and numerous other outlets, The Atlantic wrote a skeptical, in-depth feature on GoBe last summer.
A similar automatic, wrist-worn calorie tracker from Canadian startup Airo Health was supposed to start shipping late last year, but instead the company reportedly opted to return all the money to people who had pre-ordered the $149 device.
In a more established field--neuromodulation for pain relief--micro cap NeuroMetrix ($NURO) is unveiling its Quell, a noninvasive, wearable pain relief device. FDA has cleared Quell for treatment of chronic pain without a prescription. The company said it is useful for chronic pain due to indications such as diabetes, sciatica, fibromyalgia and degenerative knee conditions. NeuroMetrix expects to make Quell available to consumers during the second quarter of 2015.
|Valedo--Courtesy of Hocoma|
Another approach to pain management comes with Valedo--a sensor and app combo product that directs and monitors a person's movement to ensure the correct execution of a series of exercises designed to strengthen the lower back and reduce pain in that region. A pair of sensors--one on the lower back and the other on the chest--monitor movement and feed back into an iPhone or iPad app that walks you through the exercises correctly. Three weekly 10- to 15-minute exercise sessions for at least two weeks are said to be sufficient to reduce lower back pain. The $359 product is available on the company's website.
Finally, at this week's show, Siemens is debuting two hearing aids that work in conjunction with a smartphone app. The company said the hearing aids offer better performance than that experienced by people with normal hearing in background noise. The device automatically adapts to the sound environment and the wearer can adjust the direction and span of focus of microphones via the app.
"Some hearing aid wearers also want the flexibility that comes with having control over their listening experience," Scott Davis, CEO of Siemens Hearing Instruments, said in a statement. "We've all heard of and can appreciate the benefits of on-demand TV. With these hearing aids, you can turn your iPhone or Android device into a hearing aid control center. We call it on-demand hearing."