There were, as expected, many new and interesting tech developments on display at CES® 2019.
Some were interesting albeit not useful a least for home use. A huge appliance taking up otherwise useful space in the home to fold laundry? Really? And who really needs to bake 10 loaves of bread in their kitchen?
But there were also products that continue to advance toward the category of life changing and enabling for seniors to continue to age in place as they desire, with safety and happiness.
Technical buzzwords were flying all over this greatest gathering of technology innovators in the world – CES 2019. This year, it was encouraging how many will specifically impact our seniors and the family caregivers who love them, many of whom may be footing the bill for the new tech and/or responsible for setting up and maintaining it.
Key Observations from CES 2019
We saw a number of buzzwords and trends across CES 2019 that we believe will be important for seniors and family caregivers. We plan to spend more time on these in the future, but want to identify them now to get you, as caregivers, familiar.
- Tech impacts all aspects of our lives
- Artificial Intelligence
- Needs of those with hearing loss
- Autonomous vehicles
It’s impossible to cover these topics completely in a few sentences. In fact, some of them will take entire articles to address over time. In this article we will discuss the topics within the context of CES 2019 and expand from there over time.
Tech Impacts All Aspects of our Lives
CES was, for a long time, called the Consumer Electronics Show, which really painted a fairly accurate picture of what was prevalent. We could find televisions, sounds systems, and all sorts of gadgets for nerds.
How things have changed!
This year, for the first time, we got the feeling there is no part of everyday life that was not addressed by the innovation at CES. That will not thrill everyone, of course, but there are benefits in most of it for everyone.
CES had innovation for sleeping, eating, working, relaxing – – even going to the bathroom! There were focuses on tech for babies through the oldest adults for health, fitness, transportation, and, well, everything.
Even more importantly, though, there is tech for every aspect of the lives of our senior loved ones.
5G is the next generation of wireless communications technology promising much faster communications speeds. It is not just for our phones, though.
Improving the speed and viability of connections with 5G in our devices and powering technology doesn’t just mean that the smartphone will work faster or we could download a movie faster, but older adults will be able to access their healthcare professionals, transfer health data, and get the help they need in a more efficient way.
5G will power communications for devices across our homes, including appliances, outlets, switches and so much more, keeping them from bogging down what are already overloaded wireless networks in many homes.
It will also connect digital devices across our communities giving such things as traffic systems, electric grids, first responder systems, and increase communications speed and reliability.
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, will definitely improve the in-home care received, home sensing systems, and usable medical devices our seniors and us as family caregivers will be able to use.
Check out information about the age of AI in our recent article, Why AI is Important to Seniors and Their Family Caregivers.
As an update to that article, we encountered two companies, CarePredict and Cherry Home, already incorporating AI into monitoring systems for seniors’ homes to personalize the monitoring.
Needs of Those with Hearing Loss
We were pleasantly surprised by the attention and number of solutions we found for those with hearing loss.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, though, as tech companies have realized the buying power of the older adult market and hearing loss is one of the problems faced by those who are aging – – but really those of all ages.
While traditional hearing aids were on display at CES, highlights for us were advances in cochlear implants and the adaptation of earbuds to be hearing enhancement devices. Now there is a full range of products for those with hearing loss, starting at price points that are much more attractive than in the past.
We heard about LIDAR (think radar using lasers) all over CES. This is the technology that is going to let our devices, from cars to home monitors and more, “see” what is needed to operate effectively.
We saw a number of LIDAR-generated images in different contexts – they looked like pictures out of The Matrix – and it is amazing how well defined the nature and dimensions of the digital pictures are without providing privacy-invading personal detail.
Autonomous (self-driving) vehicles continue to be improved and in the next 5-10 years (optimistic) experts agree we could all be involved in driving in the backseat. In the meantime, how would you feel about ‘autopilot’?
It seems that the auto industry will be able to take more baby steps in the direction of vehicle assisted driving as we are seeing in the technology in our cars right now like lane assistance and parallel parking, automatic braking, and more. The sensors and systems being installed in our cars now will only continue to advance to provide for greater safety.
Tech for Seniors and Caregivers Abundant
There are many products that we found roaming the 3 million square feet of show floor packed full with exhibits.
Here is just a sampling of some of the helpful things we found that we see as viable for our senior loved ones as they age in place and family caregivers who seek to facilitate the highest possible care we can provide.
- Home monitoring systems — including AI-enabled systems from CarePredict and Cherry Home that learn about seniors and incorporate what they learned into the monitoring processes
- Connected home — devices that not only engage the senior but talk among themselves too
- Digital health and eHealth improving devices
- Voice first communications — using Google Home, Alexa, Siri, and all the home products that are partnering with these assistants to bring a truly connected ecosystem to the home
- Home medical diagnostics — including connected home devices for blood pressure monitoring, home EKG, ultrasound, medication management, blood clotting prevention, Omron BP watch, hearing tests, and MORE
- Wearables — not just fitness and GPS trackers but now hearables; devices are also becoming truly “wearable” being incorporated into clothing
- Home security — this remains a big area, with the number of both vendor and DIY systems expanding as are their capabilities
- Caregiving robots — many people may envision the Jetson’s Rosie but the reality of caregiving robotics is more simple and ultimately in the future more accessible than that. No one, even the developers, anticipate it should or will replace human caregivers but instead augment a shortage of caregivers and relieve family caregivers of at least some burden.
- Telepresence devices — such as OhmniLabs product are built not only to give necessary services and connections to alleviate loneliness or isolation of aging in place seniors but to be affordable. The inventor said he scaled down design knowing that cost to caregivers is key to getting the product in use. We agree.
There are many other robotic applications currently providing companionship which is in itself welcome therapy. In the future we expect to see more hands on care given such as medication dispensing or simply fetching a glass of water. Eventually, in the years ahead, we may see physical caregiving and ADL assistance performed but that is not a goal in the foreseeable future.
Combating loneliness, providing supervision and another set of “eyes” that can ease the mind for working family caregivers while being a hub to coordinate reminders and treatments are true near term solutions that robotics can offer seniors and family caregivers. We already see them being used in items like Joy for All and MobileHelp.
Tech Future Looking Caregiver-Friendly
The greatest advance that we see is that family caregivers will have more access to tech devices that are are being manufactured to work together.
Going away are the days that each device stood alone with its own app. Now we will have hubs that make having a connected home a one stop destination. Not only will family caregivers be able to use them more efficiently and remotely, but seniors themselves will be able to comfortably use these devices.
Another great improvement for family caregivers to helping their seniors gain benefit from technology is the DIY aspect of technology devices. They will be easier to purchase from big box stores such as Best Buy and to install via Bluetooth.
We won’t need to run wires all over the home to connect security systems or safety sensors but instead use the air waves to connect. We may still need help from companies to totally convert homes but adding a few specific devices can be done ourselves.
Data and Security Big Considerations
Discussions around CES delved into access to broadband, use of data collected, and the security of the systems used for data collection and storage.
Having access to broadband in all homes, regardless of their physical location (urban vs. rural) will be key to success. Cost of broadband service will hopefully not price seniors out of the market and deny them benefit from technology.
Another big concern is security. Where does your senior’s health and personal data go once collected? Who has the ability to use their data and do we approve of this as a fair trade off for its benefits are questions, not only for family caregivers but consumers in general.
Unfortunately the jury may still be out on the regulatory aspects, which may stall manufacturers from working to secure their products. Until someone tells them they must, will they? Transparency concerns of the general public may drive manufacturers to more tightly control security of the data measured in all tech devices and that is our hope.
Whew, we had a tough time covering the entire exhibit floor at CES 2019 and can’t adequately cover all the innovation we found in one article – – or even in a series of articles.
Coming soon is a whole new site-within-a-site for Senior Care Corner®, to focus on innovation that improves the lives of seniors and their family caregivers. That includes technology, services, care, and each area in which we find innovation about which caregivers would benefit from knowing.
Stay tuned to learn more soon . . .