We ventured out to Las Vegas, Nevada for CES 2020 and learned all about what the future looks like for wellness technology.
CES, or Consumer Electronics Show, is a trade show put on every year by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). CES’ website describes it as the “world's gathering place for all those who thrive on the business of consumer technologies” and “the proving ground for innovators and breakthrough technologies for 50 years.”
This was Embr’s third year at CES, and it provided us with another exceptional opportunity to connect with other tech companies and show all the work we’ve been doing here at Embr Labs.
We also had the chance to see what trends are coming up in wellness technology as we move into 2020 and the new decade. Here’s what we thought was pretty cool:
We’re tracking everything now
At CES this year, one of the biggest questions we got was: “what does the Wave track?” Part of the reason we got this question so much was that Embr Wave isn’t like anything else out there on the market (if we do say so ourselves), but largely, it was reflective of a huge trend that took over CES 2020- wearables that gather new data about your health.
The smart wearables market is booming - by 2022, it’s estimated to be worth $27 billion, double its 2018 value. In November, Google parent company Alphabet threw it’s weight behind FitBit, purchasing the health tracking pioneer for about $2.1 billion.
Since Apple released the Apple Watch in 2014, smartwatches have evolved from more than just mini smartphones. Due to rapidly advancing technology and the desire to create affordable, accessible, and non-invasive health solutions, smart wearables have become ideal avenues for at-home, personalized health care.
Looking forward to new health trackers, one of the next big things for wearables is blood pressure tracking. Blood pressure measurements are traditionally done by an inflated cuff, which usually requires going to a physician’s office and is a large, bulky setup that can often feel uncomfortable to use.
That’s where the H2-BP comes in, a wearable blood pressure monitor that places a pump inside of a fitness tracker. Not much larger than a FitBit, the device takes pressure readings throughout the day from the radial artery.
Data is then sent to the companion app where you can read up-to-date readings as well as identify and analyze trends over time.
H2CARE, the company behind the device, says that they should be able to get FDA approval as early as March, which would be huge.
Another big-ticket item for future health trackers is non-invasive glucose monitoring. With 29 Americans living with diabetes having to draw blood on a daily basis, it’s no wonder why tech companies are searching for a way to make that process easier.
While no devices have been FDA approved to do this, the Glutrac from Add Care is currently taking a shot at it. The Hong Kong-based company hopes to measure glucose levels from optical monitors alone.
Sam, Jake, and Heather, sporting trendy tracksuits given to us by our friends at AARP, who helped support our trip to CES after we won their Innovation in Aging Award last Fall.
Alternative meat goes beyond burgers
At CES 2019, Impossible Foods debuted the Impossible Burger 2.0. The meat substitute patty that looks, feels and bleeds like real beef became a standout at the conference and is now available at chain restaurants including Burger King, Red Robin, and The Cheesecake Factory.
This year, the leading food technology company captivated CES again with another kind of Impossible meat - Impossible Pork.
Designed for kosher and halal certification, the man-made pork substitute is meant to be used as a replacement in any recipe that calls for ground pork. Impossible Foods plans to roll out the release of the Impossible Sausage over the coming months.
Like it’s plant-based predecessor, the major protein source in Impossible Pork is soy, and it’s major fat sources come from coconut and sunflower oil. It also includes amino acids, vitamins and sugars, as well as heme, an iron-containing compound found in all living organisms, which is a big part of meaty flavors and aromas that have made Impossible Foods products stand out.
Impossible Pork joins the growing list of plant-based “meat” products looking to decrease the need for animals as a food source.
A large part of this drive to eat less meat is environmental - livestock currently amounts to about 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, plant-based alternatives tend to be lower in cholesterol and fat than actual meat.
Along with pork, which is the most consumed meat in the world and holds a particular dominance in Asia, Impossible Foods and other food technology companies are hoping to expand into other meat sources. Beyond Meat, a close competitor to Impossible Burger, also sells plant-based ground meat and sausages and joined forces with KFC to offer plant-based chicken.
Unfortunately, none of the Embr team was able to try Impossible Pork during their time at CES. When asked, Embr co-founder and COO Sam Shames noted that while he didn’t get to try the meat alternative, he had a particularly delicious roast beef sandwich during the conference (not plant-based). So, maybe not everyone is on board for replacing meat just yet, but it seems like Impossible Foods is getting us on our way.
Let’s talk about sex, maybe?
A few months ago, the CTA announced a change in CES policy - the inclusion of sex-tech products on a one year trial basis in the health and wellness category.
This policy change was the result of a controversy that sprung out of last year’s conference when CES rescinded an award they had given to Lora Dicarlo, a startup whose high-tech personal massager initially won one of the show’s Innovation Awards. The award was taken away when the event organizers determined that Lora Dicarlo violated a rule stating that products that are “immoral, obscene, indecent, profane or not in keeping with CTA’s image will be disqualified.”
The award was eventually reinstated, but not before stirring up conversations about gender and equality at CES.
Critics were quick to point out Lora Dicarlo wasn’t the first sex toy highlighted at the conference, and that shunning this particular device helped contribute to an already existing gender disparity at the conference (in 2018, only a fifth of attendees were women) by pushing ideas about the kinds of things that should and shouldn’t be seen at CES.
With all of this as a backdrop, sex-tech had a big presence at this year’s conference.
Lioness uses a smartphone app provides visual feedback so users can track their response to arousal and ultimately achieve better orgasms. The FitBit for pleasure was a 2020 Last Product Standing Finalist at CES.
For those looking to merge fashion and function, there is Crave, a company that makes wearable sex jewelry in pursuit of creating attractive looks that help destigmatize the pursuit of individual pleasure. Five years after the release of their Vesper vibrating necklace, Crave showed CES their newest design - Vesper Touch and Tease Vibrator Rings, which are USB rechargeable, waterproof, and made of body-safe material.
The addition of these sex-tech devices expands the world of FemTech, technology designed for women’s health and wellness. Until recently, FemTech products largely related to fertility and reproductive health - though, of course, having babies and tracking periods is not the only thing that women do.
Sam showing off the Wave to another excited CES-goer.
We can’t wait to see where the world of wellness technology goes as we move into the next decade. What we can say is that we’re excited about seeing visions of “wellness” expand towards a more inclusive, accessible future. Even if we’re not all ready to stop eating bacon.