2014 CES megatrends
Connected devices everywhere for everybody
From dog bracelets to pill boxes, to devices that measure our health and fitness levels, the Internet of Things has become the Internet of Everything. At CES, literally hundreds of companies presented connected devices that aim to give us more control over our bodies and the things that surround us. The combination of new hardware with software and data collection is bringing new functions to everyday things. IEC work including printed electronics, MEMS, semiconductors and innumerable other components largely facilitates the broad development and roll-out of these technologies.
A megatrend in 2014 are connected devices. They collect masses of data through all kinds of wearable sensors. But how this data will be used and by whom remains to be seen. In the meantime the market is flooded with devices that offer niche functionalities to monitor our bodies, companions and our environment.
Promising better sleep
Feeling tired in the morning? One of the gadgets presented at CES was a Smart Sleep System. A typical combination of new hardware, data collection and a smart phone. A bedside device records the sleep environment (noise pollution, room temperature and light level), and delivers light and sound programmes that help stimulate better sleep. A soft sensor that is placed under the mattress monitors personal sleep patterns, sleep cycles, body movements, breathing and heart rate. The two are complemented by a mobile app that receives the collected data and lets the user visualize his or her sleep cycles to better understand when and why they wake up.
Taking care of Fido
Several connected devices presented at CES were destined for dogs and their owners. One of the more interesting ones was a smart collar stuffed with sensors that allows to monitor a dog’s activity and rest levels, calories, heart and respiratory rate. That data is collected over Wi-Fi. Information can be tracked over time and can be shared with the vet if needed. Increases in heart rate for example can indicate if a dog is in pain and provide an early warning system when it is time to go to the vet.
Beauty and the sun
Connected devices can be beautiful and useful too. The proof: a UV measuring bracelet presented at CES that was designed by the designer behind Louis Vuitton and Harry Winston jewellery brands. It monitors UV intensity and synced to an iOS device alerts users on the level of sunscreen to be applied and when the skin has had too much exposure to the sun. The bracelet tracks daily habits and advises women on how to better take care of their skin. The app calculates maximum sun exposure for a given skin type and reveals details about how much impact it's had on the skin throughout the day.
Watching out for granny’s health
A multitude of health related hardware and applications were presented at CES. Again the aim for many of them is to make things simpler for the patient while providing added information and relevant data to the practitioner. While previously heart rate values or blood pressure would be measured with cumbersome devices during a whole day or occasionally at the doctor’s office, now real time information can be collected and later shared, leading to better diagnostics and treatment results.
Taking medication can be complex and often important treatments are not taken in a timely manner, jeopardizing the final outcome. A connected pill box launched at CES can help elderly patients and their caregivers to ensure that pills are taken on time. The box can be filled by the pharmacy or the care giver. Light as well as sound alerts via SMS, email or voice notifications inform the patient that it is time to take their pills. The relevant pill compartment lights up to inform the patient that it is the next one to be emptied. If programmed, the caregiver can be informed if and when the medication has been taken.
Don’t lose your head
A new sensor cap for people who participate in impact sports may provide early warning when an impact to the head (with or without helmet) of the wearer threatens his or her health, getting them to the doctor in time. The cap has a gyroscope, accelerometers and a microprocessor all hooked up to flexible printed electronics. A warning light in the back of the cap blinks when an impact reaches a level that requires medical attention.
And while all these devices are now stand-alone, in the future their data and functionalities may well merge when and where useful. The only issues still standing in the way are standardized data sharing protocols and overcoming potential privacy concerns, and as one doctor put it: avoiding getting swamped by the masses of data, extracting only those that are useful and comparable.