While the healthcare-focused break out sessions organized by CES and the Digital Health Summit's speakers managed to steer the event's health conversation away from the shiny new gadgets that dominate the event's massive exhibit hall, CES 2013 is, ultimately, an event about devices. And -- as has been the case for the past two years -- health devices of various kinds found their way into the coverage of mainstream news outlets covering the show. (Check out our roundup of 15 health device launches from CES 2013.)
A number of companies debuted or commercially launched health-related devices at CES for the first time this year, including quirky quantified self efforts like Beam Brush's app-enabled toothbrush and the headline-grabbing HAPIfork, which aims to help you eat more slowly.
For those following the health device thread for the past few years, however, a subtler trend emerged at this year's CES that has been in the works for years but seemed to culminate in Vegas this week: The rise of the health device portfolio. Not all incumbent device companies have moved beyond their core competency -- BodyMedia is a great example of a successful company that has iterated its health sensor-laden wearable devices for years. Others have forged a strategy of variety.
Relatively longtime consumer health device companies like Withings, Fitbit, and iHealth all had substantial booths at the event this year, stocked with their growing lineup of devices. Withings, which started out as a WiFi-connected scale company, added an activity tracker this year. It now offers weight scales, a blood pressure monitor, and an activity tracker. Fitbit, which started out as an activity tracker company, added a connected weight scale last year. iHealth, which began as an iOS device-enabled blood pressure cuff company added a smartphone-enabled blood glucose monitor and a pulse oximeter to its lineup for 2013, and it already has its own connected scale offerings.
The latest device additions mean that consumers, employers, payers and others looking to leverage the newest generation of connected consumer devices now have the ability to consider whether they'd like to purchase "best of breed" devices or go with an integrated solution. That's an age old question, of course, but one that's new for the consumer-focused segment of this market.
Consumer health devices will continue to launch throughout this year -- from these three companies as well as from others more focused on a particular condition or activity. While the flurry of device launches has been overwhelming this week, it is disappointing that so few of these companies are focused on providing the services that their hardware enables.
Despite a missing activity tracker here and a weight scale there, from a hardware perspective the health device platforms are fairly well-fortified among these three contenders. It's time to ramp up the analytics beyond trend lines -- its time for data-powered, timely and insightful digital health services.