Is CES good for your health?

iPhone blood pressure cuff

I was all set this week to write a post about all the cool new toys coming out to track your health at the Consumer Electronics Show. For the uninitiated, CES is a massive trade show where companies set up demos in a huge Vegas convention hall, and all you can read on the tech blogs all week is about gadgets that have just arrived, and will soon be on the market, ready to change your life. Of course, most of these new products never do see the light of day, and what you get is a lot of hype for products that, by and large, you never hear about again.

And I never thought the health market had a niche there, but they do. My hunch is that health technologies probably didn’t have much presence at CES until the iPhone came along, because CES is so heavily gadget-focused. But whatever the case is, health gadgets are all the rage there now. For instance, there’s the

  1. iPhone ECG: “The AliveCor iPhonECG is a slim case that fits over a smart phone. Low-power electrodes on the case are pressed against the fingers or chest of a person to display electrical activity of the heart.”
  2. iPhone Blood Pressure Cuff: Actually, there’s another one of these, and they both debuted at CES.
  3. Then of course, there’s the CES announcement that a fingertip pulse oximeter will integrate with Microsoft Health Vault in coming months. You can pick one up for the low-low price of $265 USD.

There’s more where that came from. But back to my point: does any of this hype matter? Should we really be spending our time and energy worrying about the newest gadgets on one week of the year?

The only reason why I’m even bothering to ask (assuming the answer is usually, “Sure, why not?) is because I read a really nice column by Farhad Manjoo entitled “The most worthless week in tech.” Observe:

In private, gadget reporters will tell you that covering the show is a tremendous hassle and rarely yields any interesting news. But because CES demos make for great headlines and visuals—hey look, Steve Ballmer unveiled a tablet PC even before Apple did!—and because of the sheer volume of new stuff to post about, CES is a boon for gadget blog traffic and a honeypot for advertisers…

So, why is CES so dependably dreary? It’s the curse of that old Yogi Berra joke—nobody goes there anymore; it’s too crowded. If you’re a big tech company with something truly great to push, you’d be foolish to tell the world at CES.

He goes on to argue that CES is just fodder for “bogus hype” and that the things that truly matter take place at other times of the year. In fact, thanks to the web, they can take place whenever you want. If what you have is going to change tech or health care, it doesn’t matter if you announce it from a press conference in Vegas or on your blog from your basement. If it’s great, it’s great. If it’s not, well, just because you have live audience can’t change that.

Being a somewhat gadget-loving guy myself, reading that article in the middle of the week last week kinda put a damper on things for me, so I thought I’d save it just in case, to give you one last hoorah with CES and all the glitz and glam. And now that it’s over, this year, I’ll be paying attention all year long. Looking not just for the latest gadget to take my blood pressure, but something that has some potential to make my life and yours truly better.


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