2012 an in-between year for digital health at CES

Much of the health and wellness tech was either already in the works in 2011 or too early to be demoed in 2012.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
2 min read
The heart of the Digital Health Summit. Corinne Schulze/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Those who scoured the health and wellness zones at CES both this year and last may be wondering why they came at all in 2012. Many of the gadgets and services were either already in the works last year or being held behind the curtain for future reveals.

The not-even-close-to-new BabyPlus on display. Corinne Schulze/CNET

Within the designated Fitness TechZone in the North Hall, a few sub- or satellite genres were nearly empty or devoid of cutting-edge tech. Being six months pregnant, I had a personal interest in Mommy Tech this year. Yet when I approached BabyPlus(one of the only booths in the tiny Mommy Tech section) to learn about a prenatal waist-belt speaker system, the rep excitedly explained that the science has been around for 30 years. Onward.

In the larger fitness zone, companies competed mainly in the categories of scales (Withings, Fitbit), activity trackers (Basis Band, Bodymedia, Striiv), family or baby monitors (BabyPing, Lorex), and headphones (Polk Audio, Jaybird, Fitness Technologies), several of them showcased little more than the overarching theme from 2011 (wireless, wireless, wireless). While a lot of these products are exciting in concept, I was hungry to get more hands-on, or to at least witness new tech instead of merely new spins on last year's product.

Able Planet's mysterious personal sound amplifier, which won an innovations award. Able Planet

The "silvers" category on aging looked much the same as well, and even the not-yet-released gear I was able to get my hands on didn't reveal pricing (MPERS technology by Lifecomm) or even specs (Personal Sound Amp by Able Planet).

And then there are the inevitable odd juxtapositions within the realm of health tech, as I alluded to in my Toddy post, with the purveyors of an antimicrobial cloth available last year being positioned within earshot of the groundbreaking Ion Proton gene sequencer.

The genre is a broad one, yes, but there's a larger issue at play. CES would do well to showcase more of the hard science and tech behind such devices as gene sequencers being introduced in 2012 and minimize some of the redundancies across products such as headphones and pedometers. Because in the fast-changing world of health and wellness tech, no year should be an in-between year.