CES 2016 – Initial Thoughts on Unveiled Products

By Charles King, Pund-IT, Inc.  January 6, 2016

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicked off its annual run in Las Vegas this week. CES 2016 is the seventh I’ve attended, and this year initially appears to be one of the more interesting in my experience.

That’s partly because there doesn’t appear to be any unique, market-beating solutions onsite. Instead, what I’ve seen so far are offerings that make more thoughtful use of existing technologies, resulting in better and more sustainable products and categories. Certainly many vendors would disagree with that assessment, especially those in still-emerging areas like virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI).

I’ll be looking at those offerings closely as CES 2016 progresses, and may comment on them in next week’s Review. But for now, here’s a short take on a few products that caught my eye at Monday’s CES Unveiled event.

  • Healthcare products have a long history at CES and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA – which sponsors CES) has run a healthcare technology conference in parallel with CES for a few years. But increasingly powerful wireless, mobile and sensor technologies have really brought healthcare to the fore this year. At CES Unveiled, three products caught my eye. The first is EMFIT QS, a contact-free sleep tracker that consists of an unobtrusive sensor pad that slips under a mattress and can track heart rate and stress levels. Considering the FDA estimates that 50M-70M people in the U.S. suffer some sort of sleep disorder, the EMFIT QS could offer a simpler solution for tracking/treating these conditions. EMFIT also uses the same technology in Safebed, a product designed to enhance wellness and safety for seniors. Omron, a leading vendor of sensor-based products for consumers and industry will be familiar to most anyone who uses pedometers. This year’s CES finds the company demonstrating its new Project Zero wrist and upper arm blood pressure monitors. Both can store tracking data or share it (via Bluetooth) with a smartphone which can then transmit the information to the consumer’s doctor or other healthcare providers. Omron representatives mentioned that Project Zero has been submitted to the FDA for review and clinical trials, and that the products will become commercially available after those processes are successfully completed. Finally, Withings’ new Thermo smart temporal thermometer was given one of CES 2016’s Innovation Awards. Thermo uses 16 independent IR sensors to make 4,000+ measurements and determine accurate temperature readings that can be saved to a smartphone. Thermo is simple and sanitary to use and provides a single solution for tracking the temperatures/history of all family members.
  • Excellent design is common enough, but a few products really stood out at CES Unveiled. Kensington, long a leader in 3rd party PC and laptop peripherals, won a CES Innovation Award for its new SmartFit Wireless Charging Laptop Riser, an elegantly designed device that helps reduce clutter by supporting a laptop above the desk, and also includes a wireless charging station on its sturdy base. A great-looking product and handy as all get-out. Wireless charging is also an option in the new Lenovo ThinkVision X24 Pro, a lovely 23.8-inch 1920×1080 AH-IPS display that includes a flexible/pivoting Intel RealSense 3D camera. Other options include a WiGig bar for wirelessly connecting to laptops, and a Qi-based wireless charging base. Far simpler are Bedphones, low profile (less than ¼” on-ear headphones that the company says are comfortable enough to wear to bed. That may not be everyone’s cup of tea but for people who use music as a sleep aid and those who simply prefer headphones to rest on rather than in the ear, highly adjustable Bedphones are an ideal solution.
  • “Intriguing” describes numerous products at CES, where still wet-behind-the-ears entrepreneurs stand next to or nearby long-proven vendors. But every once in a while, you run across one you hope will be as good as its maker claims. This year for me, that product is the ili by iamili, a wearable translator that foreign-going travelers can use to communicate with local folks. Currently available in versions that provide back/forth translation in English, Chinese and Japanese (with other languages planned for future versions), the ili was one of this year’s CES Innovation Award winners, and the company booth at CES Unveiled was crowded with interested reporters and analysts. Fingers crossed, but my hopes are high that the next time I travel overseas, an ili will be in my laptop bag.

That’s it for now, but next week’s Review will feature more CES news and coverage.

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