Notable by its scarcity -- 2011 CES tech for an older audience

To be expected - the pounding stereo and flashing TV screens of the 2011 CES. Attendees were treated to a particularly awe-inspiring multi-screen, stop-you-in-your-tracks LG display; the white light room with nothing but Audis in it; and that deep-plush Microsoft region -- hard to call it a booth -- with so many Kinect game-playing glassed compartments. See two older men in suits playing an energetic kicking game of soccer with their screen avatars. Walk away, shaking your head. And this year's style -- never have so many people walked so far among so many exhibits of glittery iPhone cases, swoopy tablet sleeves, and sleek headphone cases. And 2011 is obviously the year that Tablets must be offered to compete with the absent iPad -- 75 different versions of a device no one needed just one (long) year ago. Read from others about what was, wasn't, and shouldn't be at CES. 

Here are a few new ventures for an older audience -- particularly those with GPS-aware phones or willingness to try using their TV as an Internet access device (caution, not quite ready for prime time):

  • United Health Group's DocGPS.  What a setup! At the Digital Health Summit, Harry Greenspun, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Dell Services, complained that it was easier to find a vet for your dog using your cell phone than it would be to find an orthopedic surgeon if you fell down and broke your leg. Out comes the next speaker, Richard Migliori, MD, Chief Medical Officer of UnitedHealth Group, to tell us about United Health Group's free mobile app, DocGPS, that will use your location to let you know what doctors are in the area, even enabling appointment scheduling. So there.  Available now.
  • LG's ST600 Smart TV Upgrader  - no new TV required.  How ironic -- a year ago, all that was left of WebTV was an MSN shadow, rapidly fading. Now every TV at the show was smart, smarter, and smartest about Internet connectivity, with/without built-in apps.  Amid all of those TVs, LG will offer a small upgrade box -- connecting to WiFi or Ethernet -- that turns any HDMI TV into a smart, Internet-enabled TV with a very senior-friendly remote.  We can hope that senior-friendly carriers (hint, hint to Comcast, Verizon, et al.) will start offering discounts that will help get more seniors online with easy-to-connect TVs. Oh well, one can hope. Check LG.com. Available Q2.
  • Lifecomm -- the Mercedes Benz of PERS. A joint venture of Qualcomm, American Medical Alert Corp (AMAC) and Hughes Telematics, this sleek and stylish "mPERS"gadget can be worn by a patient on the belt, around the wrist or around the neck–has sensors, GPS and wireless communications, including a speakerphone. The device will measure movement, automatically alert if a wearer falls." Available late Q4. For more, check Lifecomm.com. 
  • VitalLink Assisted Computing. Nominated for 'Last Gadget Standing', VitalLink offers a "friendly shell that runs on a touch-screen Windows PC, the company has made it simple for an elderly person to use a PC, including making video calls, cycling through family photos, watching video, reading news (in any size type), playing games, and even watching Netflix movies." At $4.99/month, available now. For more, check VitalLink.net.
  • Telikin Senior Computer. A well-designed computer for seniors, described by the company as "a virus-free alternative PC comes with pre-loaded applications and an integrated menu of the top ten personal interest functions, including video chat, photo sharing, email, local and national news, address book, weather, calendar, shopping, games and health sites, all in a sleek, touchscreen design." Available now, check Telikin.com.
  • At the show and on the floor. Previously launched products for seniors and their caregivers were scattered across the convention center halls; all are available now. These included:  Independa (software offering calendaring, life stories, and reminders), Sonamba (well-being status monitoring), TabSafe (medication management), Celery (computerless e-mail) and many AgeTek members -- including BeClose (remote monitoring), ClearSounds (phone amplification), Dakim (brain fitness), GreatCall (Jitterbug phone services) and Presto (computerless e-mail), Wellcore (fall detection) and Grandcare Systems (remote monitoring).

In addition to the CES convention hall displays, two full summits, Digital Health and Silvers Summit, offered up full days of speakers and panelists, Q&A, networking opportunities and thought provoking ideas and trends. In addition to finding the agendas and speaker lists, presentations and videos are now or will be loaded onto the links noted here.

Another thoughtful comment and sequence of replies

Tech blurring the line between old, and not so old

Perhaps it's 'glass half full-itis', but....I suspect there is a blurring of the form factor line between 'senior friendly' tech and what's attractive to a slightly younger group--boomers and early Gen X--who are also aging, facing chronic conditions and aging parents. There are better designed, sleeker devices that connect wirelessly into smartphones (iHealthLabs, Withings BP monitors). Monitors that look like tablets have a 'cool' factor--like Sonamba--that are appealing,if it performs as good as it looks, the pricing isn't too steep or confusing, and they succeed in marketing it like a cell phone. A wider market can only help these companies' business case--and when the boomer child is personally using or is familiar with it, adoption by/for the older person may come a lot easier.

Another note: the 'back end' of integration is finally happening--Ideal Life's Health Tablet, Cardiocom's nurse triage services, WellComm's 'master health app' that provides a dashboard for multiple iPhone health apps. This is also vital for spreading device usage, making payment cases and finally providing better health support for aging adults.

technology in search of application...

Laurie - great reporting as ever...do you have any information on how many users / sales / what sort of use these new products are getting? There seems to be an increasing amount of new concepts out there but I'm not hearing / seeing of that much actual use...are there any that strike you as particularly good? (e.g. Independa?) will you be reviewing any of the new products individually?

Keeping it real!

Thank you for your informative feedback on CES. We're too small to get around to tradeshows and other intelligence gathering opportunities; hence, we look forward eagerly to your Aging in Place Technology Watch!

Perhaps...but we're making progress

I agree with your pointLaurie, but I think progress is being made, not only in the expansion of both the Digital Health and Silvers Summits' and their expo space on the floor, but in pockets of the CE industry mindset.

For example, in the Super-Sessions I attended, I heard CE people- tech people, even talking about how UI's, connectivity and peripherals need to come together so that people like "grandma can see their grandkids over their internet connected TV".... I don't remember hearing anything like that last year...

I agree we've got a long way to go, but in just a year, I already feel the conversation is changing. (thanks to folks like you and your readers...of course!)

Thanks, Jeff!

I have added links to both Silvers Summit and Digital Health sites so that when available, videos of the sessions and presentations can be viewed. And here is a link to a must-read NY Times David Pogue CES write-up.

And a link to the assessment by Senior Housing News.

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