In-Depth: Digital health news from CES 2016

By MHN Staff
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All in all this year's CES event, like last year's, had no big breakout digital health announcements. Many companies did announce news, however, and many of those releases were updates from launches the year before. Below is a roundup of digital health news coming out of CES 2016. Be sure to read our CES 2016 health device roundup (if you haven't already) for a comprehensive list of device unveilings at the event -- we recapped a only a few of the bigger device launches in the summaries below.

Onto the news roundup:

Samsung shows off a wearable ECG patch prototype: Samsung wasn’t quite as focused on health this year as it was last year, but the company did give a number of nods to connected fitness. In his keynote address, Samsung SDS President WP Hong discussed fitness tracking in his updates on Samsung’s Internet of Things endeavors.

“We have made [technology] even smaller, energy-efficient, and connected,” he said. “These bring the smarts to every object in our lives. One example is the bioprocessor and the incredibly powerful all-in-one chipset for mobile healthcare. This bioprocessor looks after your heart by monitoring your ECG. It measures your respiration and keeps track of your bodyweight. It is our first step toward strong IoT growth in healthcare.”

They demoed the bioprocessor in a chest-worn ECG prototype device called the S Patch. You can see just that portion of their keynote here.

A demo video of Samsung’s much-hyped Family Hub fridge also showed the fridge displaying the statistics from the father’s workout, tracked via a wearable device, as he walked in the door.
 
And in addition to a smart fridge, Samsung showed off its own take on the smart belt. Samsung’s Welt (it’s a portmanteau of wellness and belt). The device, a creative prototype that may or may not be released to the public, tracks the user’s steps and waist size and warns them if they might be overeating.
 
FTC Chairwoman uses an old school pedometer because of privacy concerns: The Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said that companies need to be more transparent about how they are using data collected from users. She added that because she is unsure of how health data from a connected device would be handled, she uses a low-tech pedometer, according to a report over at Cnet.
 
In an interview with the Washington Post ahead of CES, Ramirez provided some advice to internet of things companies.
 
“If you don’t need to collect the information, don't collect it,” she said. “You're better off not having information that you don't really need. You're minimizing your risk. That's number one. Number two: Be transparent about what you're doing and provide choices for consumers. When you do provide choices, make sure that you respect those choices when consumers do select. Some may opt not to have their information collected.” The final note she added is to keep in mind the importance of data security especially in light of the larger volume and sensitivity of the data being gathered.
 
Johnson & Johnson CMO talks about various digital health endeavors: Johnson & Johnson Global Chief Marketing Officer Alison Lewis spoke with Brandchannel on the sidelines of CES about the many digital health endeavors the company is involved with, including the latest: a new health and wellness technology accelerator launched in partnership with Plug and Play.
 
J&J is also working with Alphabet’s Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences) on robot-assisted surgery as well as with IBM Watson on predicting patient outcomes and suggesting treatment for knee replacement patients. But some of Lewis’s most interesting comments were about the way J&J uses data -- including data pulled from social media -- to adjust its interactions with customers.
 
“Data provides more depth and understanding of the consumer’s journey,” she said. “It shows us that the journey is not solely focused on the ‘what’ but also the ‘where’ as in, where the consumer will be most receptive to a connection or a message from Johnson & Johnson. For example, data shows us not only the time of day but the type of device a new mom uses to connect with us. We use that information to inform the type of message and the format of the content we share with her.”
 
UHC launches online caregiver tool: UnitedHealthcare has launched a new online offering for caregivers that is available for free to all large employers with self-funded health plans. The offering, called Solutions for Caregivers, provides caregivers with an online store that offers products and local services designed for caregivers as well as relevant information related to the senior’s specific challenges, for example articles and videos about Alzheimer’s disease, heart attack, and stroke. Solutions for Caregivers also provides other online tools including a shared calendar, secure messaging, and a task management tracker.
 
“Many caregivers are searching for relevant resources but often don’t know where to start,” Vidya Raman-Tangella, head of UnitedHealthcare’s Innovation Center of Excellence, said in a statement. “Solutions for Caregivers addresses the needs of family caregivers through case management services and online resources that help caregivers more effectively care for their loved ones.” More
 
Penn Jillette extols Withings’ virtues: Interviewed by Yahoo! Tech, magician Penn Jillette talked up the Withings scale as the tech that helped him lose a lot of weight recently. He chalked it up to the automatic recording of his weight, that he couldn’t fudge.
 
“Turns out that information matters,” he said. “Everybody has a scale, can look at what the scale number is, write it down, send it to their friends. We can all do that, the technology’s there, it’s like picking up the phone. But the email makes it different and the Withings scale makes it hugely different. Just knowing that that was recorded, that I couldn’t slightly fudge it, but most important that I couldn’t not record it.”

Withings also announced an infrared thermometer. Rather than being inserted in the mouth or armpit, Thermo measures temperature from the temporal artery on the die of the head. The user simply holds the thermometer next to their head or a child’s head and an array of 16 independent infrared sensors measure the heat being emitted. The company plans to launch the device this quarter and sell it for $99.95. The connected app will be available for both Apple and Android phones. Go, which will sell for $69.95, is a durable light-weight tracker with an E-ink screen. It has an eight-month battery life and can be worn as a clip, pendant, or on the wrist. More
 
CTA, Pathway Genomics, Under Armour, and Medtronic all tap IBM for analytics: The Consumer Technology Association foundation, a foundation associated with the group that runs CES, announced a research partnership with IBM Watson to use cognitive computing to help seniors and people with disabilities. Researchers will look at tools like mobile apps, smart home appliances, robots, and wearables and explore their applicability to medication adherence, promoting exercise, and diet management to improve home monitoring and condition management.
 
Pathway Genomics partnered with IBM Watson to create a new app, called Pathway Genomics OME. The app will combine Pathway Genomics genetic profiling (based on a kit sent out to users) with Watson’s analytic capabilities to provide genetically-informed lifestyle recommendations -- for instance, it could create a dieting plan that takes into account a genetic predisposition towards not metabolizing fats well.
 
IBM also announced deals with Medtronic and Under Armour. You can read our full coverage of those announcements here.
 
Validic announces VitalSnap: Validic announced a new technology at CES 2016 called VitalSnap. VitalSnap allows data from non-connected devices to be captured and digitized by using a smartphone's camera. Users will be able to point the phone's camera at non-connected devices like blood glucose meters, blood pressure monitors, or pulse oximeters and capture the data from their screens without actually taking a picture. This data can then be sent to healthcare providers and other Validic customers just the same way data from a connected device would be. More
 
Novartis, Qualcomm Life partner on connected inhaler: Novartis has announced a new partnership with Qualcomm Life, a subsidiary of Qualcomm, to develop a connected version of its inhaler, Breezhaler, for people who have COPD. Specifically, Qualcomm Life will develop the reference design for the module that will connect the Breezhaler to the Qualcomm Life 2net platform, a hub for connecting home health devices. This platform will collect data on inhaler usage, including the duration of the patient's inhalation, which Novartis said indicates quality of the inhalation.
 
Novartis expects the Breezhaler to launch in 2019 after it undergoes manufacturing, testing, and regulatory approvals. More
 
Intel makes some health-related announcements around Curie and Radar Pace: Intel made a few different announcements at CES this year. A couple of them pertained to its tiny computer module Curie, which will cost $10 and begin shipping this quarter. Through partnerships with ESPN and Red Bull, Intel is incorporating the chip into a BMX bike and a snowboard. The company also announced Radar Pace, a pair of smart goggles that are being developed with Oakley. Radar Pace will visually track the user’s run and offer them realtime coaching tips. It’s set to launch some time this year.
 
HealthBox from HTC and Under Armour: Co-developed with HTC, the HealthBox is a package consisting of three new devices from Under Armour. UA Band is wristworn activity tracker designed for athletes, UA Heart Rate is a chest strap heart monitor to measure workout intensity and estimate calories burned, and UA Scale is a WiFi weight scale that also measures body fat percentage. The HealthBox will be available for $400 at Under Armour stores starting January 22, and will then roll out to other US locations in the first quarter. International sales will begin later in the year.
 
Under Armour also launched a $150 pair of smart sneakers, which contain a chip for tracking steps. The shoe is called the UA SpeedForm Gemini 2 Record Equipped. More
 
Fitbit shows off Blaze: Unlike Surge, Fitbit's new Apple Watch competitor, Blaze, has a color display and offers on-screen workouts, powered by FitStar, a company Fitbit acquired last year. Similar to Surge, the device also provides users with workout summaries, call and text notification, and music control. Blaze has a five day battery life. It also uses GPS to track runs, offers continuous heart rate monitoring, and keeps tabs on sleep. Fitbit Blaze is available for preorder for $199.95 on the company’s website. Starting in March, the device will be available at retail locations including Amazon, Best Buy, Brookstone, Verizon, and Target. More
 
Misfit announces Ray and Specter: Misfit announced two new devices, Ray, an activity tracker, and Specter, a pair of sleep-tracking headphones. Similarly to Misfit 2, Ray has a three-axis accelerometer and a vibration feature that reminds users to get up and move throughout the day, notifies them of a call or text, and serves as a silent alarm. Ray is priced at $99 and Specter doesn’t yet have a price. Both will be available by the end of 2016. More

Where was Jawbone?: Who doesn’t show up for CES can be almost as telling as who does. While Withings and Fitbit both had big announcements at the show, Jawbone didn’t even have a booth on the premises. This is just the latest piece of evidence that Jawbone’s relevance in the fitness tracker market is diminishing. We wrote a comprehensive list of Jawbone’s woes last November when the company had to lay off 60 employees.
 
Insulet taps Glooko as main data management partner for Omnipod: Insulet, the insulin pump company responsible for the Omnipod line, announced that it would use Glooko for data management for all Omnipod users. Glooko allows Omnipod users to view data from their insulin pump, as well as from their glucometers or CGMs, and gives all users access to Glooko’s app.
 
"A critical component of diabetes management is the ability for patients, as well as their healthcare providers, to see a complete picture of their health," Patrick Sullivan, president and CEO of Insulet, said in a statement. "Having the ability to track and analyze information about a patient's insulin data, in combination with blood glucose levels, diet and exercise data, allows patients and their care teams to optimize and improve their healthcare management. We are pleased to partner with Glooko as Insulet's preferred data management partner and are thrilled to offer Glooko's award winning diabetes management platform with our OmniPod System."
 
Glooko first announced compatibility with Insulet’s products last summer. More
 
MC10, L’Oreal team up: Cosmetics company L’Oreal has teamed up with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based flexible electronics company MC10 to create MyUVPatch, an adhesive patch users can apply to their skin, then consult a mobile app to track their UV exposure. It will role out to consumers later this year. More
 
Fashion icon, interior designer launches health tracking device: Iris Apfel, a 94-year-old fashion icon who has worked at Women’s Wear Daily and for interior designer Elinor Johnson, has partnered with WiseWear to develop a line stylish health tracking devices. The line, called Socialite, includes three bracelets that all cost $299.99. Each bracelet offers vibration notifications for incoming calls, texts, emails, and calendar reminders, a distress signal that will send an alert to the user’s contacts, and activity tracking features. Apfel told Mashable that although she never imagined designing a tech device, she saw a need for health tracking devices that were more fashionable. "If a technology is going to strive to save my life, then at least take the next step to make me look good while doing it," she told Mashable. More
 
First Response unveiled an app-connected pregnancy test: The app will walk the user through the test, tell them when their sample has been processed, and entertain them while they wait for results with a choice of distracting, calming, or educational video material. It will cost around $20. In an opinion piece, Engadget Senior Editor Nicole Lee argues that an app-connected pregnancy test is unnecessary.
 
“Taking a home pregnancy test is one of the most private rituals that a woman of childbearing age can have,” she writes. “It is also one of the scariest and most heart-wrenching experiences a woman can go through. And to somehow turn it into a way to piggyback on the Internet of Things trend strikes me as terribly opportunistic and even a little insensitive.” More
  
Polar released a smart scale: The device interacts with its Polar Flow app and wearable devices like the Polar Loop line. The scale tracks weight and BMI and can keep track of up to 10 different family members. With the wearable, though, the Polar Flow app can use weight and activity data to motivate the user to reach a target weight and track their progress losing weight. Polar Balance is on sale for $99.90 from Polar's website. More
 
GreatCall unveiled the Lively Wearable by GreatCall: The device, worn on the wrist or around the neck, tracks activity and offers a mobile emergency response service via a one-touch button that connects seniors to a team of highly trained agents in emergency situations. The Lively Wearable will be available for purchase on GreatCall’s website beginning in the spring of 2016 and in retail locations starting this summer. The device will cost $99.99 and the mobile emergency response service costs $14.99. More
 
Masimo adds new tracking parameter to pulse ox: Massimo has added respiration rate to its MightySat pulse oximete. The device already measures  arterial oxygen saturation (SpO2), pulse rate (PR), perfusion index (PI), and Plethysmograph Variability Index (PVI). Masimo’s pulse ox is marketed to atheletes and pilots to track their breathing and blood oxygenation. The new version of the device will be available by the end of February. More
 
Sleep Number announces new connected bed: Sleep Number’s new bed includes its SleepIQ algorithm and predictive modeling, as well as ActiveComfort technology that lets the bed adjust firmness and support to the user’s needs. It also has an API that would allow it to interact with other connected devices, perhaps suggesting a different sleep setting after a long workout. The bed will be available in 2016 for $1,000. More
 
OMSignal adds sports bra: OMsignal, which already makes a line of smart, fitness monitoring clothing, is adding a sports bra to its lineup. The bra is adjustable, available in different styles, and tracks breathing, heart rate, workout intensity, and even calculates calories burned. A companion app lets the user see the data. A “smart box” on the bra stores data, so users can leave their phone at home when they go on a run and still record the data. The bra is expected to sell for $149 and to ship in the spring. More
 
Valencell unveils optical blood pressure monitoring: Just a few days after announcing a lawsuit against Apple and Fitbit over alleged patent infringement, Valencell unveiled new blood pressure tracking technology that it is developing. The company said that it will soon have the ability to accurately estimate blood pressure without requiring a blood pressure cuff or calibration and instead using an optical method. More
 
Lifesum launches step tracking app: Stockholm, Sweden-based calorie counting app company Lifesum has launched a step counting app called Movesum, which aims to help users find the motivation to exercise more. Movesum helps users set movement goals and uses notifications to keep users committed to their goals. More
 
Third party app for SciO shown off: A French startup called DietSensor showed off an app that purports to return nutritional information about food by scanning it. But the app is just a companion for ScIO, the device from Consumer Physics that was announced and crowdfunded last year. ScIO, which claims it will use spectrometry to allow users to scan the chemical composition of a number of things including food, is now due out in May 2016 at a price point of $249. More
 
Profusa unveils Lumee sensor: Biointegrated sensor company Profusa, which raised $13.2 million last month, previewed a new device, called Lumee. The device is designed to detect a user’s unique body chemistry and turn that information into actionable medical data. In a statement, Profusa CEO Ben Hwang said that between a patient’s annual physicals, they do not know what is going on with their body. And although health tracking devices are helpful, they do not provide insights into the user’s body chemistry. More
 
Sharecare partners with Cricket Wireless and BlackBerry: Digital health and wellness engagement company Sharecare has partnered with mobile operator Cricket Wireless to preload its AskMD app on all new ZTE Grand X 3 phones with Cricket Wireless. This echoes a similar deal from last year in which Cricket Wireless partnered with Sharecare to preload AskMD on ZTE Grand X Max+ phones. More The company also partnered with BlackBerry to integrate BBM messaging and VOIP infrastructure capabilities into its app on iOS, Android and BB10 devices. More
 
Hexoskin partners with Skulpt: Hexoskin, which offers a health-tracking apparel line, entered into a marketing partnership with muscle tracking device maker Sculpt.
 
Vegas psychic predicts what’s ahead for digital health: A Vegas psychic told Engadget that the intersection of technology and hospitals will be a big thing this year. She added, “I see a lot of getting away from paper,” which Engadget took to mean more EHRs. More