2014: Digital health’s big year at CES?

By: Brian Dolan | Jan 8, 2014        

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Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsCES Flashback: After coming back from CES and the first Digital Health Summit co-located there four years ago, I wrote: “Perhaps in a few years we might be able to declare CES an event dominated by consumer health news — and those on the sidelines may find this to be a sudden event. The road to mass consumerization of wireless health devices, however, is much more complicated than those for other CE categories.”

Is 2014 that year? Wearables, in particular, fitness and health-focused wearables are arguably the big story at CES 2014. Sony’s got one now. LG, too. Lenovo is thinking about it, reportedly. While activity tracking becomes increasingly commoditized thanks to advanced chips in smartphones like Apple’s M7, some of the incumbent digital health device makers are stepping up their offerings. For example, iHealth, which has been at it since the CES event four years ago, has moved onto all-day trackers for ECG, SpO2, and blood pressure. Withings and Basis are tackling sleep. Activity might not be enough anymore, but then again, recent data claims Fitbit dominated that market last year.

Digital Health at CES hasn’t grown quite that much: Leading into CES this week one of the more widespread headlines about the event was focused on how many more digital health companies and startups are exhibiting at the event in 2014. CEA, which runs the event, announced ”a 40 percent growth of the digital health footprint” at the event, whatever that means. The group has been quoted as saying some 300 digital health companies are exhibiting at the event — a number that piqued our interest. After spending some time reviewing the CES lists of almost 350 exhibitors (assumedly self-) categorized as digital health companies, however, the number is considerably lower. Even if you keep in all the e-cigarette makers, robotics companies, and massage gadget companies that consider themselves digital health companies, it’s hard to get many more than 170 digital health companies. And that’s generous. If you’re trying to get a sense of how much the category has grown year-over-year, companies that make juicers, headphones, and scooters probably shouldn’t count, right? 170 is still impressive, but I think most anyone familiar with digital health would agree if they took a look that the number is about half as many as has been widely reported — at most. Nice to see so many companies looking to jump on the bandwagon though. That says something, too.

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  • http://www.wirelesslifesciences.org/ Rob McCray

    Good reporting, Brian. This is still an issue of quality and results not quantity and hype. It is difficult to compete with fast cars and big screens.

  • Betsy Bennett, Ph.D.

    Thanks so much for taking the time to examine the numbers! Really appreciate the reporting. :)