The wearables on display at 2018’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in Las Vegas earlier this month, differed from those of previous years, with an increased EEG-device presence, stronger med-tech ecosystems, and improved smart-clothing options. Companion software was a bit more nuanced and complex than in previous years, with an emphasis on data aggregation and subsequent analysis. The standard fare was also present: wrist-worn devices (trackers, smartwatches, and fashion devices) and VR/AR devices.
On the quest for new sensory data input for better wellness and health solutions
Companies using electroencephalography (EEG) technology, such as Muse and BrainCo, mainly focused on neurofeedback, or responses based on alpha or beta waves generated by the brain (e.g., preprogramming a light to turn on in response to a user’s concentration). EEG technology in and of itself is not too interesting or particularly innovative, but what can be done in terms of sensor integration and brainwave data analysis is exciting.
For example, Muse – whose meditation-focused headset currently has a targeted user base in wellness enthusiasts – is integrating its EEG technology with products from Smith Optics, a casual eyewear company, to help athletes reach higher levels of concentration during workouts. BrainCo, started in Harvard’s Innovation Lab, uses similar neurofeedback technology and hardware, but the focus of its technology is completely different. The company targets the education sector by analyzing brainwaves of students and identifying periods of lower, middling, and high concentration, and determining contributing factors to these changes.
Wearables displayed at the show featured artificial intelligence (AI) in a couple of different ways: as part of the companion software’s value proposition and as digital assistants. BeWell Connect, a med-tech company with FDA-approved wearable devices, provides AI-driven preliminary diagnoses for minor medical issues. The strength of these solutions has yet to be tested, but it’s a step in the right direction for pushing the sophistication of wearable software forward. In addition, Rokid Glass and Vuzix Blade were among augmented-reality products debuted at CES to have digital-assistant integration.
Fossil’s Skagen Falster smartwatch was showcased, along with the company’s Misfit Vapor, which was released a couple of months before the show. Nokia Technologies showed some different colorways of its Withings wearable products, but no new models – instead concentrating its CES efforts on a newly released non-wearable sleep-tracking technology. Fashion brands in the wearable space, such as Movado and Guess, have started to segment the wrist-worn category from purely a smartwatch/activity tracker binary to one that includes a fashion element as well.
Smart clothing was also on show. Xenoma, whose “e-skin” outfit is integrated with tactile sensors (e.g., motion, breathing, pressure), recently secured a partnership with Hugo Boss for the fashion company’s golfing line, to monitor users’ golf swings. Other vendors, such as Qus and AiQ, have sprouted up in this category as well, with applications for smart clothing ranging from simple fashion integration to healthcare, fitness, and VR/gaming.
Interesting innovations in wearable sensors for health tracking were also present at CES. HealBe expands wearables’ tracking capabilities with piezoelectric impedance sensors to monitor caloric intake, and Spire’s Health Tag, a device applied to clothing via an adhesive, is a respiratory monitoring sensor that aims to reduce stress and anxiety.
Tech Watch Wearables: Apple, Snap Inc., and Xenoma, TE0004-001150 (March 2017)
Wearable Devices Tracker: 3Q17, CES004-000001 (November 2017)
Wearables Unit Sales, Installed Base, and Hardware Revenue Forecasts: 2016–21, TE0004-001161(April 2017)
Rishi Kaul, Analyst, Consumer Technology