Magid: Health, fitness and a ‘smart bra’ at CES

There are enormous number of products on display at CES, ranging
from the wacky to the fun to the useful to the essential. And some
are potentially life saving.

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So, in between looking at big screen TVs, cool concept cars,
robots, home appliances and all the other products on display, I
spent my time at the health and fitness-and-wearables area at the
Sands Convention Center and spoke with some of the speakers at the
10th annual Digital Health Summit, sponsored by Living in Digital
Times.  At a post-summit dinner, Pamela Spence, the global health
sciences and wellness industry leader at the consulting firm Ey,
described the health technology world as the coming together of
“behavioral science, medical science and data science.” She’s
right, but at least for some players, I’d add a bit of sorcery,
wishful thinking and, of course, hype.

Apple didn’t have a presence at the show but I saw a lot of
people wearing the Apple Watch, including the latest version with
fall detection and electrocardiogram and AFib monitoring. Withings,
which has long been a CES stale with its line of scales, blood
pressure monitors and smart watches, showed off the Move ECG, an
analog smartwatch, which “gives you the opportunity to take an
ECG anytime and anywhere,” along with letting you know if you
have an AFib episode.” Unlike the Apple Watch, which needs to be
charged nearly every night, the Withings Move has a 12-month
battery life and is slated to cost $130, a third of the starting
price for an Apple Watch.

Omron, the company that makes blood pressure monitors sold in
drug stores, has been at CES for at least two years, showing off
prototypes of is blood pressure watch. But now it’s real. The FDA
approved Heartguard, which costs $499, looks like a typical
smartwatch with the ability to track movement, monitor sleep
patterns and deliver notifications. But when you lift it up, you
see a blood pressure cup that can inflate around your wrist to
measure your blood pressure. An Omron employee admitted that it’s
not for everyone but for people who have been diagnosed with
hypertension who need to monitor their blood pressure on a regular
basis.

Omron was also showing off its own version of the Kardia Mobile
ECG monitor that I recently reviewed. Like Kardia Mobile’s own
monitor, it’s marketed to people who have been diagnosed with a
higher risk of heart problems, which is a different approach from
Apple’s approach to put this technology on the wrists of
everyone, including people with no symptoms or known risks.

I keep wondering if we’ll ever see a watch that can monitor
blood glucose, but we are a step closer thanks to the Abbott
FreeStyle Libre, which is a wearable device that continuously
monitors blood sugar without the need for finger sticks. You wear
it on your arm and scan the device with an iPhone or their
proprietary monitor for an instant reading. It does require a
flexible filament inserted just under the skin, but there is no
need to draw blood.

Welt was on the show floor with its “wellness belt,” which
looks like a stylish belt for keeping up your pants but also
includes a “fall detector” that analyzes the way you walk to
“assess your risk of fall based on your gait pattern.” Falling
is a major risk of hip fracture and other serious issues for
seniors. It also measures changes in your waist size and detects
how long you’ve been sitting. Their brochure claims “waist
reduction of 0.8 inches in 12 weeks,” but I’m pretty sure that
requires diet and/or exercise. If all it required were wearing the
belt, I’d order one as soon as I get back from Vegas.

I’m wearing an old-fashion leather belt but I’m also wearing
Touchpoints on each wrist. They’re about the same size and shape
as an Apple Watch with a stylish steel band. But there is no
display, only a switch on a light on each one. The $160 gadget is
advertised to reduce stress, a useful tool at a chaotic show like
CES. In technical terms, the devices provide “bilateral
alternating stimulation in tactile (BLAST) form technology,” and
the company cites a research article from the Journal of
Biotechnology and Biomedical Science that it “has been shown to
modulate the electrical activity of brain networks that mediate the
stress response, resulting in a stress-reducing effect in
individuals with high reported levels of anxiety.”

I have one on each wrist (along with my Fitbit on one wrist and
Apple Watch 4 on the other) but you can also hold them in your hand
or even put them on bra straps or other parts of your body as long
as the two units are symmetrical. I can’t vouch for the research
but I can say that when they’re powered on and paired, you feel
an alternating vibration on both sides. I turned mine on and off in
15-minute increments as I was walking around CES and when I went to
bed last night. I can’t prove they work but I can’t prove they
don’t work. What I can report is that I did fall asleep pretty
fast last night, which often isn’t the case when I’m attending
shows like CES.

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I also met with an executive of D Free, which has a
non-invasive bladder scanner for dealing with incontinence. The D
Free Scanner uses ultrasound to detect changes in bladder size and
predict urination timing and “sends alerts to your smart devices
when it is time to go to the toilet.”

Finally, there was one product that I didn’t try for obvious
reasons. It’s not a health and fitness product but a fitting
product for bras. Somainnofit from Soma is a “smart bra” with a
bluetooth connection to a smartphone and an app women use to
“get your personalized and precise measurements in seconds.”
Customers can then purchase the correct size bra from Soma. It’s
not designed to measure for other brands.

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Larry Magid is a tech journalist and internet safety
activist. You can listen to interviews with executives from most
of these companies at LarrysWorld.com/CESHealth.

Source: FS – All – Interesting – Lifestyle
Magid: Health, fitness and a ‘smart bra’ at CES