A rant about the Internet of Things hype.
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Ten Technologies from CES -- A Wrap
How CES is it? So by today, the press folks at the Consumer Electronics Show must have quite the headache from the racket and flashing displays. The Las Vegas onslaught of new electronics has been described in the NY TImes as a 'Deluge of Devices for Reading and Surfing', but I like Engadget's more playful term -- 'crapgadget' for overpriced flash and gadgetry that so dominates the show. And how nice, we have new meaning for the phrase 'killer' app, in every sense of the word -- like the Ford Sync technology, in-dashboard 10-inch screen tech that will enable you to surf the Internet while driving -- something you used to do with your iPhone or BlackBerry, but that is so yeseterday.
"We are trying to make the driving experience one that is very engaging,” says Jim Buczkowski of Ford. That's a nice way to describe a distraction of music selection, web surfing and restaurant reviews which may be so compelling that sirens, screaming in the back seat, or oncoming traffic will recede into background noise. But I digress. Here are ten product launches that span the CES-Silvers Summit time period. (For those who want to remember 2009's Silvers Summit, here's a link -- I really am avoiding repeats).
1. CloseBy Network -- Remote activity monitoring. Seems like someone would use CES to announce bundled senior care home automation (this time Control4) -- with sensors and software for remote home monitoring (remember IngeniumCare from last year?). CloseBy Network offers: "Real-time, secure monitoring of elderly and disabled loved ones allows them to stay in the comfort of their own homes; with e-mail and mobile text alerts sent to a care network of trusted friends and family." This category, which is still flying below the general health-related radar, currently includes GrandCare Systems, GE QuietCare, WellAWARE, and Healthsense. CloseBy Network.com.
2. Wellcore -- Automated fall detection. Again parallel to 2009, when Halo Monitoring announced its wearable fall detection chest strap, this year, Wellcore goes to market with a wearable fall detection device. As with Halo, Wellcore extends the personal emergency response category into a generation, coined by Halo as PERS 2.0, where passive notification replaces the need to press a button. Like Halo, Wellcore (ships in March) uses accelerometer technology (versus tilt sensors), boosting accuracy of fall detection and notifies when the device is not being worn. Wellcore.com.
3. eReaders everywhere. Baby boomers like eReaders such as the Amazon Kindle -- so let's see more of them -- gasp, but this many? Check out the lengthy slide show that's available on Huffington Post -- where you can see pictures and vote on which you (might) like, since they aren't necessarily available yet. So you have small (Alex) and big (Sprint Skiff and Que). But as we previously noted, the Sony eReader Pocket Edition has the best price -- $200.
4. GPS navigation and tracking everywhere. You want to know where you're going, don't you? This should be really simple by now -- so it was nice to see a CES announcement from TomTom about a device called 'EASE' with 2 button entry -- and Lifetime traffic updates sounds pretty good too. But of course, there are more CES 2010 car GPS announcements -- and also personal GPS tracker announcements like the DeLorme/SPOT or XactTrax -- both available in April.
5. Mobile Health -- from afar. This announcement comes from a Chinese company, IVT Corporation -- and it's interesting. It's a device kit with: "a mobile phone, wireless blood pressure meter, oximeter, etc. Using these, patients measure blood pressure, cardiogram and blood oxygen levels. Vital signs are displayed on the phone and are automatically added to the patient's health records on a remote server. The test results can be forwarded to a third party via short messages, allowing for easy monitoring by loved ones. The kit is very small and convenient."
6. Fitness -- music for your exercise pace. This tool doesn't mention boomers or seniors -- but of course, it is totally appropriate for both. "Activa tells users when they are falling behind set goals and selects music to fit the pace of one's workout. And now, behold Philips Activa, an MP3 player unveiled at CES whose accelerometer actually selects the songs that most closely match the tempo of your body's movements." (It is expected to be released in April for $130.)
7. Kodak Pulse Digital Frame. Just what's needed -- another way to provide photos to long-distance family members, this one from Kodak. "Send a picture to it from a PC or a phone, and the shot pops up on the screen within minutes. And while this novel method for picture-loading is certainly great for individuals, the greatest use will surely be for sending photos to technophobic friends and family." (Available for pre-order on Amazon.com).
8. SoundClip amplification for the iPhone. For those who dock their iPhones and would like some amplification while doing so. "Designed as a conical deflection chamber that reflects volume towards the user instead of away, the device is said to amplify sound by 10dB between the 5kHz and 20kHz frequencies." At $8.00 -- this is a bargain.
9. D-Link Home monitoring Starter Kit and door phone. The D-Link Home Monitoring Starter Kit is a "home security solution that allows homeowners to remotely monitor their homes." The D-Link 3G door phone enables you to look outside at your visitors without leaving your computer. "This device functions like a standard doorbell, but it offers the ability for you to check out your visitors in full even when you are away from home, as long as you own a 3G-capable cellphone. Featuring an integrated camera, this device will capture and stream the images of visitors to a computer or 3G handset, with the added advantage of an illuminated button to peek outside whenever it is dark."
10. So you think you need a new laptop? Even if you don't, CES is a crowded showcase of tablet PC's (dunno if anyone really needs one of those yet) and many new laptops -- Asus, Dell, Sony -- and a few winners from Lenovo (the PC company spun out of IBM a few years back).
Okay, now you have slogged through this list. You're sort-of still awake -- and you haven't mulled over the mopping robot, yet. Imagine slogging through the 500+ announcement CES press releases (not all of which are new products -- some are just CES 2010 press releases). Now imagine slogging through multiple hotels and giant exhibit halls staring at this stuff and the 110,000 attendees (low number compared to previous CES events -- full disclosure -- I didn't attend this year).
Is this any place to search for a solution to an actual problem experienced by boomers or seniors? Is this the right place to take a product for (pre) launch? And does it matter that there is a special day devoted to products for boomers, seniors, and digital health in the midst of this 'crapgadget' tsunami? And worse, how much of this stuff is so pre-launch as to never see the light of an operating day, let alone actually sold in the market?
Now I'll tell you what I really think. Unless you think the plentiful press/bloggers and hangers-on will notice your offering, vendors and service providers who want to launch their products or services for the boomer-senior market should skip CES and its sub-events. Instead, you need to be at the events where either boomers themselves are (AARP Life@50+, for example) or go to events where the professionals in this industry are (ASA, Baby Boomer What's Next, Connected Health, Health 2.0, AAHSA, ALFA, etc.).