Although I saw the expected 8K TVs, concept cars and new computers last week at the Consumer Electronics Show, I also saw a growing number of smart products aimed at improving the quality of life for older Americans. Sure, there have been connected health gadgets, wearables and companion devices at prior CES events, but this year, I was surprised both to see not just breadth of these product offerings but also the very targeted focus on them towards our aging population.
In hindsight, I attribute this to two reasons.
First, our Baby Boomers now range in age from 56 to 74 years old, accounting for roughly 18.8% of the total U.S. population according to the latest data on Wikipedia. That’s nearly one in five U.S. consumers, for a market of more than 58 million people. And that figure doesn’t include caregivers or family members who are looking for smart products to help monitor the Baby Boomer generation who want to “age gracefully” as was touted on the CES show floor.
Secondly, adding connectivity and sensors to products has become less expensive and easier to do as radios and other key components have become smaller. This is the same reason that the phone in our pocket has changed from a voice-centric device two decades ago into a powerful computing device today.
Need some examples of this trend of tech aimed at the Boomers? Here are a few of the innovative products and services I saw that available now or are soon coming to the market.
The MouthLab Mobile Monitoring System from Aidar reminded me of the fictional Tricorder from Star Trek, able to quickly detect and help diagnose medical issues. Unlike the futuristic device from television, the MouthLab doesn’t wirelessly scan a person. Instead, you bite down on the mouthpiece and simply breathe for about 30 seconds.
MouthLab gathers data from your breath, saliva, mucous membranes, and blood vessels, and measures 10 key health parameters including heart rate, heart variability, blood pressure, blood oxygen saturation, ECG, temperature, lung functions and more. The information can be sent directly to health care providers over a cellular network in the product. The expected cost of a MouthLab, assuming it receives FDA certification, which the company expects this year? Just $120.
Omron’s Complete Wireless Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor + EKG is in the same price range at $159.99 and measures exactly what it’s called: blood pressure and heart data including pulse, atrial fibrillation, tachycardia, bradycardia, and sinus rhythm.
This product is FDA approved and due to regulations, you won’t even see the first measurements you take until the results are interpreted by a U.S. board-certified cardiologist. Omron sends those results to you at no charge; after the first reading, you can then see all of your data on a Bluetooth connected smartphone. Both Android and iOS are supported.
Robocare’s Bomy II robot (no price given) is specifically aimed at people suffering from dementia or who need a little extra looking after yet don’t need a full-time caregiver.
The two-foot-tall mobile device offers cognitive training exercises to help keep aging minds active but can also remind people to take medications at specific times, call emergency services or contact a registered family member or friend in case assistance is needed. Bomy II has multiple cameras and sensors for monitoring and collision avoidance, plus Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios for connectivity.
For Boomers still on the go and need a little walking assistance still wanting to live the connected lifestyle, the Smart Walking Stick caught my eye. You can’t actually buy it. However, you can make it by using the available code, schematics, and a 3D printer. This prototype product was one of two grand prize winners in the AARP Innovation Labs Living in Motion contest.
Essentially, this is a small connected module that attaches to a cane, providing access to digital music and control of smart home devices such as lights or fans over a Thread network. Additionally, there are sensors for fall detection which can alert contacts over WhatsApp. Since walking with a cane takes the use of one hand and not all seniors have or carry a phone with them everywhere, I like how this cane offers digital conveniences and monitoring without needing a handset in the hand.
Also interesting at CES was a health monitoring service from Binah.ai. This is another thing you can’t buy, at least not directly, because the company sells the technology as an SDK to other companies.
Nonetheless, it’s impressive because it can use the camera of a smartphone to provide pulse, heart rate variability, respiration, stress, and blood oxygen levels with a 60-second scan. Blood pressure data is in the works. The simplicity of input from an existing sensor that many seniors are likely to have is appealing, but of course, it’s the behind the scenes algorithms and data-crunching that make this product effective.
These are just a small sample of connected products aimed at the aging population shown at this year’s CES. I wouldn’t be surprised in the coming years if a whole section of the show floor was devoted to this segment as the costs of connectivity, computing and sensors decrease, making for more affordable smart products and digital companions to improve the quality of life.