CES 2017: The Smart Cane Revolution

CES 2017: The Smart Cane Revolution

The following post is republished from NTCA’s blog, The Exchange, featuring dispatches from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) by NTCA Vice President of Policy Josh Seidemann. For more from CES, visit The Exchange.


(Las Vegas) Although PR materials for CES indicate a four-day conference, it is preceded by a day-and-a-half of media-only programming, as well as a full schedule of formal conference programming (I am not in Vegas for the full show; I think that only the most resilient of people could stand such a stretch of time in this city of sensory-overload; add the glitz and neon glare of CES to the mix, and the prospects become quite frightening).

Yesterday’s media day kicked off with a keynote that addressed global trends in tech, including various regions and their respective growth potential. That and other general sessions were followed by an evening expo of new products and “innovation award” winners. As I worked through the hall last night, I tried to view what I saw through the lens that I introduced in yesterday’s post, specifically, what is technologically meaningful. While kids would probably argue that the “smart hairbrush” should appeal to me, I saw some other devices that demonstrate how the incorporation of sensors and connectivity can offer elegant, if not brilliant, solutions to everyday challenges.

The smart cane learns habits
and sends alerts

Take the smart cane, for example. This humble stick is embedded with sensors that “learn” the user’s movements, and other technology that can detect a fall. The cane also features an alert system that can notify a pre-determined party if something goes awry. The result? If Aunt Hilda uses the cane and one day gets out of bed late (or not at all), the cane can signal an alert to a neighbor or friend. If Aunt Hilda tumbles with the cane, the same protocol is followed. By understanding habits and then discerning when a departure from those habits occurs, or sensing when a dramatic change in balance is encountered, the cane can issue a distress call that might not be made with a standard, “Help, I’ve fallen . . .” device.

Do I need a fridge cam? No. Would I like a smart 9-volt battery for a smoke detector that alerts me when there is trouble, or a $49 leak detector that can be placed in bathrooms, beneath sinks, or near a water heater to signal excessive moisture in those locations? To both, I would say “yes.” Roost offers both.

Some technology straddles the border between useful and a fully-deserving OMG. Eugene is a small device that can sit atop a kitchen waste can and determine, based upon a UPC code, whether or how a particular product container should be recycled. Of course, incentives are everything, so users are encouraged by the possibility of earning credits toward future purchases. And, while some might shrug as to ultimate usefulness of such a device (will one more non-recycle detergent bottle really make a difference?), Eugene can also place an order for more product when the old container is recycled. So, for example, when you scan that empty bottle of Tide, the app will prompt you with an opportunity to order more from pre-determined, pre-loaded retailers.

An Alexa for recycling.

These and other devices were on display last night, and more will be featured as the expo hall opens tomorrow. For now, though, let’s consider a phrase that one speaker tossed out yesterday. In context, I would not argue that he intended it to be a paradigm indicator. But, given NTCA’s focus on opportunities in telehealth and aging-in-place, I would argue that is one we can adopt can promote: active aging. Aging-in-place certainly has its role in keeping seniors in familiar environments. But, aging-in-place need not be confused with sedentary habits. EarlySense, an Israeli company, offers a “touchless” device that monitors users by slipping a saucer-size disc beneath a mattress. It measures bio-metric indicators and user activity, and can share that information globally with others as selected by the user. Like refrigerator door monitors or smart pill bottles, the device is a virtually invisible way to enhance user safety while not demanding any change to a lifestyle.

These are but a few examples of meaningful technology. Up next: telemedicine.

I fear this device would be lonely if I were to use it.
CES roadies ready the show floor.
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