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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 everywhereBaby 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 paceThis 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 iPhoneFor 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.).




I would beg to disagree with the notion that CES is a poor venue for aging-in-place technology companies, and the recommendation to skip the event.

While I cannot speak for all senior care companies that were there, there is no doubt that CES was a fabulous venue for us (Wellcore) to launch our product line, significantly exceeding our expectations on all fronts.

Press coverage for us (print, online and TV) was remarkably broad, with several noted reviewers/analysts/agencies asking to review our product, and scheduling follow-ups in late Jan. Booth attendance, too, was exceptional, with a large number of visitors from the senior care industry, including prospective customers and channel partners. Many people came there after reading the press coverage about us. We also got in-depth visits by several VCs and strategic partners. The panel discussions on senior care/digital health were packed, with a standing room only situation.

All in all, great job by Susan Walker and Robin Raskin in organizing the Silvers Summit / Digital Health section and the accompanying panel discussions.

Laurie, (warning: this is going to be long)

I’m going to have to disagree with you on this. If there is any place that technology products should be shared with the tech industry and the public, it should be at CES. Our aging industry is having a difficult time bending the media’s ears right now, and you know how hard it is to get prominent and influential media sources to give the aging in place technology industry the attention it DESERVES. Why shouldn’t it be at CES? I personally think it should be at least triple the size it was this year!

As a matter of fact, I’m disappointed to not see the companies I expected to see there “showing off” their technologies. Where was Healthsense? Where was Halo? Where was emFinders? Where was Microsoft HealthVault? Where was CAST? Where was WellAware? Where was LoJack? Where was Bayer Diabetic Products? Where was Phillips? I could obviously go on and on.

Now I believe some of the vendors I’m referring to can only choose so many conferences per year and this one hasn’t shown much “pay-off” yet. And some just didn’t want to spend the $$ because they just don’t have the disposable income yet and haven’t figured out how to really sell enough product to consumers.

But I think we are thinking about this completely backwards. If we only look inwards at our industry and show/launch our products only to our industry, I think we might have a big problem that those in the biz world might call a non-scalable business. We will just keep talking and talking to ourselves! What good will that do?

Every single TECHNOLOGY product for our industry should start showing at this CES/SilversSummit so we can treat the Aging Technology Business with the importance it deserves. That doesn’t mean that our industry-specific conferences aren’t equally as important (e.g., What’s Next, ASA, AARP, etc.) because they definitely are. But we can't just show excitement to our own industry. How is popular media supposed to take notice?

Keeping our industry secluded is a HUGE mistake and that’s where we’ve been going wrong so far. We need to open everyone’s eyes to the progress that’s been made and will continue to be made every single year. Right now we need the media’s help to inform consumers about these products SO we have to tell the them. How do we tell the media? We need to show up where the media are – and we need to show up in DROVES!

Now the minute they see a good chunk of the floor filled with all of the wandering devices for Alzheimer’s, all of the leaders in fall detection equipment, all of the leaders in home monitoring technology, all of the leaders in diabetes monitoring devices, all telehealth leaders, and on and on and on and—the minute they see a room full of that, then we’ll see the press show up, take notice and want to write about it. The leading manufacturers/vendors in this field need to get out there and treat themselves like they are a force to be reckoned with. It really is our own fault because we’re not taking ourselves seriously enough. We’re believing everyone else out there saying that it’s just “not interesting” or it’s just “not commercial enough.” Well in my previous business, we used to hear that a lot until someone wanted to buy our script, and then everyone wanted to hear what we had to say.

I suggest these companies get together and take a long hard look at what is reality. CES/SilversSummit is an important event for serious players to get noticed in technology. This is where the mainstream press is (Tab-Safe had a great piece on Good Morning America fyi!), and we need to band together and show them what this industry thinks of itself. Raise a little hell if we have to, but more importantly, show-off and show-off in large large groups.

CES is exactly where Aging Technology should be. Samsung would never not be there. LoJack should be there every single year showing their wandering devices – it doesn’t have to be about launching a new product (although we do like to see progress). How is technology improving the lives of the fastest growing demographic in America? It’s about showing what the technologies are, how they are working and making seniors lives better – remember, most people don’t even know these technologies exist! How do you expect them to buy them EVER??? Can you tell I fell passionately about this? I do. This is one of the biggest problems with our industry right now. This is not about showing your products to the industry, it’s about showing your products to the world and it’s about the media, and what better place to do it then at CES? And how can we make a bigger impact? By having a bigger imprint.

Next Year: I would like to put it out to these companies and organizations to show up in 2011 and put themselves up to what the other technology verticals have been doing for years. Show them how technology is going to help them in their old age! The aging population deserves it and your products deserve it. I think Susan has pioneered SilverSummit for a very good reason – let’s take advantage of it! Thank you, Susan, for seeing what this industry needed before this industry even knew it!

A few other personal observations (if anyone cares…): I’d like to see more demos with seniors involved at the conference. I was surprised that no one had seniors at their booths talking about the products or demoing them – you can even use video. Bring some reality to the technology. Don’t just talk about the technology – SHOW IT! If you have fall detection technology, let’s see how it works by seeing some falls. If you have phones with operators answering calls with health questions, can we simulate those calls like OnStar does with those great commercials? We need to bring our technologies to life for new consumers & buyers. I think we’ll have better luck!

* If you are going to be at a conference and want to brainstorm ideas, I’m happy to do that with you! I love that stuff ☺

Susan had the best idea of the whole weekend and I almost don’t want to wait until next year and that was to do a private party to demo all the products for the buyers/retailers. Hope I got that right, but most importantly, I liked us doing something a little swanky around what we do and taking pride in it while also showing off the products. Everyone else does it, why shouldn’t we!?!

Looking forward to next year! Can't wait to see the progress in technologies this year!

Thanks for listening...Jill Gilbert
VP eCommerce & Industry Relations

On the evening of January 8th when the showfloor closed, the Silvers CEOs and sponsors held a group meeting to start a "silvers" industry trade group. It has legs... and will go forward to become a 5013c membership organization. It does not have a name, BOD or mission yet. We as a group will be developing this over the next weeks and months. This was one of the most exciting events of the whole show. It is with hopes that we have enough in place to make the initial press announcement in March in Chicago.

And yes Jill you are correct, we will plan a special invitation-only event to showcase products directly to retail buyers in hopes that they will give competitive retail shelfspace in places like Bestbuy and Costco for example, to products that enhance aging-in-place such as hearing, sight, wellness/fitness, med-compliance, elderly safety, communications, brain fitness and so much more.

Susan Ayers Walker -- co-founder of the Silvers Summit and Digital Health Summit , both at CES
http://www.silverssummit.com http://www.digitalhealthsummit.com

There's a new iPhone app called "StealthType SMS" that helps you type a completely accurate message without looking at the phone or speaking to it. It's pretty cool and totally unique. Check it out on the app store or iTunes, just search "StealthType" or you can go to www.stealthtype.com)

Laurie, we were sorry you didn’t stop by our booth in the Control4 Pavilion this year. I think if we had the chance to spend time together you may have learned a new perspective. Our remote monitoring solution encompasses both bleed edge technologies in software, hardware and artificial intelligence. CES is the ideal venue for IngeniumCare and other similar technologies.

We love displaying our product at CES and had, once again an overwhelmingly positive response not only from our partners, but with the multitudes of dealer channels interested in getting these technologies into the marketplace.

Also, your comment “(remember IngeniumCare from last year?)” struck me as odd, we are alive and well and were indeed at the CES 2010.

Please feel free to call me anytime to discuss.

Kindest Regards,
Kellerey Lohman
Vice President, IngeniumCare

Back in 1992, I was having dinner with Kip Forbes and Casper Weinberger as part of the Forbes Tech Advisory Board when Mr . Weinberger stated that "the only meaning technology comes from the military". Having worked for several start-ups in my career, as well as a few brands you might know, I almost lost my dinner...your statement, to avoid CES..shows a total lack of marketing insight and is equally riveting.
Jill Gilbert has done an excellent job in rebuttal so I won't go there, but as someone who has launched over a dozen new technologies and revolutionary life products over the past 40 years, here's some news for you.
To start a business and to stay in business..you have to sell something. Retailers, both new and old, both large and small,some looking for new opportunities and partnerships go to CES to find them..I really must put in perspective, that bloggers and the press rarely buy anything.
I participate in all the events that you have defined..all are important, but to do business..you must be at CES.
And especially at Silver Summit where in sitting in a 45 minute panel discussion, one could learn more about this catagory and channel then just about anywhere, including blogs.
Of course, it's just my opinion.

CES netted over 120,000 attendees (they were expecting 113K) MORE than the last two years not less Laurie... 2500 exhibitors and a record 330 NEW exhibitors -- well done CES

So as I often tell others -- and now others are telling me -- if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. I am still in the kitchen slogging and blogging away: I have been called various things today (summarized in a word as 'wrong') about the attendance, the tone and shared excitement of both CES... and Digital Health and Silvers Summit tracks sessions at CES. And particularly notable in the e-mails and responses are both the passion and a call to action to accelerate the momentum in this industry. Agreed!

Jill Gilbert's comments above really sum up a set of actions for expanding this industry beyond the boundaries of its own (agreed) insular set of professionals and pundits. And Susan Ayers Walker notes the formation of a new industry association to foster sharing and commitment to the aging-related technology industry in which the 'whole is bigger than the sum of its parts'. Agreed! I truly wish I'd been present to feel that energy. 

As Mary Furlong said -- the CES show floor is an ocean of complexity -- with overwhelming and intricate audio, video gear -- enough to baffle even the geekiest of techno geeks. Silvers Summit and Digital Health offer an oasis in that ocean. They are at the opposite end of the complexity spectrum -- vendors like Jitterbug, GrandCare, Medical Mobile Monitoring, Doro, Presto, TV Ears, ClearSounds, IngeniumCare, FirstSTREET, and many more are in the business of simplifying technology for consumption of us all as we age -- when our hearing, vision, typing agility -- may make us less than  techno geeky and perhaps even more techno-phobic.

How consumer electronics vendors don't see that fact is apparent when you stare at your TV remote control, never mind your car GPS or your Windows toolbar. Do we need more thought on product simplicity, user interface design? Yes! Do we need more ways for small startups to innovate and get their products in the market -- absolutely! Are Silvers Summit and Digital Health gatherings a way to do gain visibility in the market? I do believe those who (loudly) tell me.

Here is another overview - this from Senior Housing News and a blog post from the CES show floor from the Aneesh Chopra, CTO of the White House, plus a video of his tour of the show floor.

Laurie, I am glad to see your posting dated 1/11. Every single day for the past 30 years we have committed ourselves to making a difference in the lives of boomers, seniors and people with hearing/vision loss. It has not always been easy as the catalysts to reaching people (i.e. retailers) have not looked at solution technology, which may not have all the sexy techno-flash that mass market electronics technology often does, as viable offerings for their consumers. Yet, we draw great energy and renew our passion with each call from a customer whose life has been changed because we have helped them connect, stay independent and maintain a sense of belonging. The Silvers Summit was truly an oasis at CES, as Mary Furlong mentioned. We (ClearSounds) are so grateful Susan has given us the opportunity to participate, share and learn with this remarkable group of people. We look forward to a future of collaboration with this group of smart, creative and passionate believers.

Did you attend this year's CES? Because I did and learned a great deal about marketing to the aging in place. Leaders of various companies shared some shocking statistics and marketing methods that work. They were also very entertaining.

The only problem with CES are the feet at the end of the day!

As CEO of Presto Services Inc., I echo the comments above and want to categorically state that this year's CES show was a big success for us. I am thrilled to be part of the founding of a new industry group, and look forward to the steps ahead. 'Nuff said on that subject which so many others have deftly articulated above. What I wanted to comment on was the post which talked about why consumer electronic companies seemingly make difficult to use products and how these are in counterpoint to those represented in the Silvers Summit area. As someone whose undergraduate and graduate programs were focused on product design and development, I have a particular axe to grind with products that are barely usable because it seemed that they were designed by buffoons. The paradox is that they were not designed by buffoons, rather, by highly intelligent and expert specialists in the fields of electrical and mechanical engineering. The problem is that these are the wrong people, using the wrong disciplines, to design products made for humans. Human interface design and usability design are highly specialized fields of study with their own unique points of view.

Over the past 26 years, I have developed thousands of products for eight consumer products companies from startups to Fortune 100 companies. Throughout those experiences, I found that the usability of the products was directly related to how educated or enlightened the company leadership was to human interface and industrial design. Put simply, Apple products are beautiful and easy to use because Steve Jobs LOVES design. And because he loves design, he plans for it, budgets for it, hires top talent for it, and insists on it in his final products. More importantly, he has the sense to understand design and the nuances that make a product not only more usable, but more desirable.

Conversely, in companies that do not "love" design, they do not budget for, nor hire for it. Is it any surprise that these products are harder to use and not quite as desirable as they could be? Doing great design is hard, very hard. It is costly, too. But most importantly, it is a mindset, an ethos. If it is not a core element of a company's leadership, that company will most likely not exhibit superlative design. It's just too difficult and costly for great design to run "under the radar" in a company. It needs to be part of a company's soul.

It is doubly gratifying to see the small startups in the Silvers space devote such passion and precious resources to developing products that are so usable, so elegant, so well designed. Conversely, it is so repugnant to see poor usability design come from the leaders of the consumer electronics industry, who can afford it the most and should be enlightened enough to understand its value. Apple should not be unique and have such standout performance in such challenging economic times. They should be challenged with great design from many, many other companies. But it is in the nuances of the human interface, usability, and industrial design that they really shine. And these nuances are what are lost on many of the CE giants.

Why did I rant on about this here as part of the Aging in Place Technology Watch blog? Because these small, committed companies that I saw in the Silvers Summit at CES know that usability design is tantamount to their business success; even though they can least afford to budget for it. What I saw this year showed me a commitment to usability design that stemmed from company leadership. In comparison to many other parts of CES where design merely equalled glitz, or where the problems being solved were all about which product stood out most prominently at retail, the Silvers Industry companies were a breath of fresh air.

I salute the commitment of these companies and encourage them to spend the money, hire the talent, and keep the faith that design is a critical component -- along with great engineering and marketing -- that can provide the sustainable competitive advantage every company seeks.

Peter Radsliff, CEO
Presto Services Inc.

Laurie, you ought to trademark 'crapgadget tsunami'. So much more pointed than 'vaporware'! And we always need a contrarian view to check our premises and our enthusiasm over the 'latest and greatest'.

I've never been to CES but been a keen observer now of two years of the senior 'interface' which is now SilversSummit/Digital Health Summit. Given the move to mobile and boomers getting older, CES is going to get pulled that way too in devices that benefit seniors and also across the age range. I haven't seen the video of the Paul Jacobs/Eric Topol keynote (available on CommNexus San Diego here: http://www.commnexus.org/programs/special-interest-groups/event-video-ar...)but seen video of the commentary--and that keynote is all about connected health across the age range. And don't think that smartbooks, tablets and slates aren't going to be adopted quickly by those whose sight is starting to play tricks on them--I know I am not the only person who didn't go Blackberry or smartphone because the screens are too darn small and dim, and instead bought a netbook after they ceased to become toys.

See additional CES commentary on www.telecareaware.com.

And organizing smaller companies into a consortium to me is a great idea. GE, Philips and Intel can't dominate nor squash this market, because they (yes, even Philips) are too big to take risks on innovation. Period.


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