TVs, Drones, Phones & Much for Aging in Place – Our CES 2016 Wrap

Every year we anticipate new and useful technology innovations that will enable seniors to age in place longer and family caregivers to help family caregivers live safer, healthier and happier lives.

Of course, those innovations are just a small — but growing — part of the seemingly endless exhibit space, spanning sites across Las Vegas.

Wading through the also seemingly endless crowds leads to encounters with everything from TVs having ever more brilliant pictures to drones of all sizes (including one that could let us fly over traffic) to robots that are the forerunners of much needed future caregiving assistants to…well, this could go on for a while.

The devices and services we saw at CES 2016 showed us that innovators and tech companies are making great strides in usability and have begun listening to consumers, especially seniors and their family caregivers.

This is great to see and gives us real hope for what the future will bring.

CES 2016 Facts

The largest technology trade show included experts, innovators, manufacturers, financeers and consumers from across the globe. The number of attendees was phenomenal. There were so many people and so many new inventions to see that they needed to use several venues to house all the categories of technology devices.

  • 3,800 exhibitors unveiled their latest technologies
  • 2.47 million net square feet of exhibit space
  • More than 170,000 industry professionals, including more than 50,000 from outside the U.S.
  • Attendees traveled from more than 150 countries
  • The goal of many attendees, inventors and collaborators was to inspire products and services to improve our world and bring us all hope
  • 500 startup companies in the Eureka Park Marketplace showcasing the latest ideas
  • Government officials from a variety of agencies were represented, including Congress, the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Transportation, White House Office of Science and Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Food and Drug Administration
  • Social media was active in spreading the technology news, with 1,278,870 mentions of the #CES2016 hashtag and 15.2 billion total potential social media impressions from January 5-9

Whether we’re young or old, technology touches all of our lives in some way. It is certain to continue to do so in the coming years.

Positive Improvements Technology Has Produced

In the past few years we have seen advances in how our lives are connected to technology. Here are just some of the observations and discussions that CES2016 produced:

  1. Technology is easier to use, devices are easier to read and technology is more accessible to us all including our seniors
  2. Bluetooth innovations increase range for devices which is important especially for home monitoring of wandering seniors
  3. Costs for devices and platforms with multiple devices are coming down due to lower cost sourcing of components, volume savings of certain devices is being passed to consumer
  4. Increasing awareness of the benefits for tele-health among risk bearing entities such as insurers and ACOs to prevent health crises, reducing hospitalizations or avoiding penalties for healthcare systems in reimbursement will result in more devices getting to seniors as cost/benefit for long term health maintenance
  5. Increase in acceptability among seniors with respect to adoption of devices, they are more willing to use them when they are simpler to use, devices are not as intrusive as they once were
  6. More thinking about the needs of caregivers, reality of reduced numbers of caregivers in the future will demand solutions and alternatives to facility placement, it is vital to reduce stressers for caregivers and give them time to pursue their own health and financial security without compromising the well-being of their seniors
  7. More open mindedness on part of manufacturers to seek out opinions of seniors and caregivers about what they need, including them in product development instead of creating something and pushing it upon them
  8. Devices are not just connecting with the internet but are more often connecting to each other

From these points alone you can see why we are so positive about CES.

Aging in Place Benefits for Seniors & Family Caregivers

More Movement Toward Smarter / Connected Homes

‘Smart home’ has been a hard label for us to accept in past years because one needed multiple apps and even systems to control all the devices in the home that could be connected.

How many of us will find it convenient to have lights, thermostat, ceiling fans, and more connected and controllable if that control is more difficult than using the manual method?

ces connected homeAt CES 2016 we found the industry getting closer to having our connected home devices, or at least many of them, working together, but it typically means limiting our options to only those devices in a common system when we might have a few favorites spread out among different systems without the ability to pick and choose.

Hopefully that is going to change sooner rather than later so we are able to choose our favorites among all connected devices – – and our seniors’ homes can truly be smart.

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS)

PERS have been around for a while (think “I’ve fallen and can’t get up”) but have not been favored by many seniors because, well, they’ve looked like what they are. Also many seniors don’t feel like they are ‘old’ and don’t place value in being stigmatized by such solutions.

At CES we found many companies making PERS devices that look more like jewelry, something a wearer would not be embarrassed to wear.

Improvements in PERS are also giving them wider connectivity, enabling them to track seniors outside of home and connect with help if needed, while still providing reports and alerts to caregivers as desired.

We also noted a trend away from PERS with dedicated dashboards, moving instead to smartphone or mobile applications that are portable, faster and more interoperable with other systems in the home, such as apps for entertainment and socialization.

Connected Home Health Devices

Home health devices are moving closer to facilitating greater independence from the doctor’s office, or at least reducing the need for visits.

ces myecgAt CES we found multiple connected health devices using one app for a variety of devices, though primarily one manufacturer, but devices by other manufacturers don’t talk with each other yet. Some great suites of products are coming but are still not yet available in the US such as BeWell.

Info given directly to caregivers is still important, they want and need alerts and updates. Patterning behavior invisibly so long distance caregiver knows if their senior has moved around or taken food from the refrigerator during the day or may be facing a health crisis so that preventive action can be taken before injury or hospitalization seems to be gaining a market with less invasive devices.

Identifying who is the customer, is it the senior or the healthcare system or the insurance payer or the caregiver, continues to be unanswered for many providers. Each entity has different needs and agendas that need to be addressed and product design needs to match that need.

Less Charging Required

Many devices are improved due to better components, such as processors that use less power resulting in longer battery life. Some don’t require daily recharging or docking to work.

There are many items we found that have long life batteries as much as 10 years or more. Some batteries may last as long as the devices themselves without needing to be recharged.

Some devices are being designed to have replaceable batteries that once dead get replaced never needing to remember to recharge or the device itself gets replaced.

This could prove to be a game changer for continued use of devices instead of tossing them into a drawer when they won’t turn on especially for seniors.

Multi-Function Wearables

ces multi health device appSeniors who are active and their caregivers may prefer to have more health data recorded, not just their steps. Wearables that can provide more data help them not only monitor but improve their health and give them real time coaching tips to make adjustments for the benefit of their health will prove more useful. Adding a GPS component to senior wearables could really help peace of mind for caregivers.

Connecting the measured data to family caregivers and the healthcare team will be vital. Who owns this data is another question being tackled by the experts. We found some products don’t store your data while others do.

Some of the products we encountered that are geared for seniors may be too simplistic, single function devices that look like monitors despite the manufacturers’ hopes they do not. They also claim as a benefit being connected 24/7 to their response center, but monthly costs for that benefit can be steep. The hope is we can balance use, results and cost for the benefit of seniors.

Some manufacturers are adding gamification (making interaction with their device game-like) so that seniors will engage more readily with the apps. When they use the fitness app, for example, they can earn points for rewards and show people how far they have traveled through pictures around the world.

Is This What Caregivers and Seniors Really Want?

What do seniors really want? Is a tablet the right device? A smartphone? How about a more mid-range device to be able to read all the data their connected devices now manage?

What does a caregiver need to help keep their senior safe, social and healthy? Is that different depending on whether they live nearby or far away?

Does a caregiver who is a spouse need something different because they themselves are aged compared to someone with young children? What are the needs of a sandwich generation caregiver who has aging parents for whom they care, a full time job with pending retirement income to protect, an adult child who lives at home still (or again), a spouse/partner to attend and their own well being desire from technology?

What will they find most useful if they aren’t the ones paying for it?

Who will teach seniors how to use their new devices accurately and troubleshoot them when needed (more often than we might realize)? Seniors and older caregivers need help to select, purchase, set up, learn how to use and troubleshoot when problems in connectivity arise.

Great Devices, But Who Will Pay?

Who will pay for these new devices? We heard several experts state that the ‘risk bearing entities’ such as private insurers, Medicare, Accountable Care Organizations and healthcare systems, whose models for reimbursement are changing from fee for service to reward for good results, will be forced to provide devices that can improve the health and wellness of seniors.

Devices show results for seniors in reduction of hospitalization, ability to stay longer at home rather than institutions, and help for caregivers to continue to provide care more effectively. In these scenarios everyone wins!

But how long will it really take before health insurers, including Medicare, will provide technology devices that can help seniors and caregivers when so many other basic pieces of equipment and life changing medications are not readily accessible to many seniors?

Should seniors and family caregivers hold back from purchasing devices that can meaningfully impact their lives while waiting for insurance reimbursement that may not happen? Should they wait for improvements in tech devices when the products are needed now because they have to pay and are afraid they will be obsolete quickly after the money is spent?

CES as a Venue for Idea Sharing and Cultivation

CES has always been a home for discussions of innovation and what it means – and will mean – to our world and is growing with the reach of technology into our lives.

Innovators and regulators shared their thoughts on protecting our privacy and security as technology opens windows to all aspects of our homes and lives.

internet of medical thingsDoctors, insurers and marketers discussed options to overcome barriers and make the most of the vast potential of technology to improve our healthcare.

One aspect of technology that has everyone talking is the massive amounts of data that is and will be generated, making best use of that data, and protecting sensitive information from being misused. The next hurdle will be who owns our health data.

The growing number of connected home health devices, for example, will produce mass amounts of data in the form of our blood pressure, heart rate, weight and so much more.

That data will help improve the care provided to seniors by family caregivers and healthcare providers but has to be protected against misuse that harms our seniors. It also has to be protected against hoarding by interests competing to use data ownership as a tool for profit rather than sharing in the interest of providing the best care.

Recognizing What Innovation Means to Consumers

Innovation is about much more than the technology that results – – it is about what that technology can mean to peoples’ lives.

This year’s CES shone a brighter light on that than we have seen before.

Sure, more advanced TVs should provide greater entertainment than prior generations of the technology, but we are talking about meeting more basic needs.

The talk isn’t about technological advance for the sake of better devices, but better health, greater safety, making life easier for those with physical limitations, and SO much more.

That’s what we call meaningful innovation!

We can’t wait to see what CES 2017 has to offer.