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Wearable Health Gadgets Off To a Running Start at CES

Posted by Sheila Shayon on January 6, 2014 04:47 PM

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is off and running in its first full day of exhibitions, and one trend has already emerged as a major influencer: wearable health. 

Indeed, in a year that is sure to bring countless developments in the world of wearable technologies, brands at CES are particularly focused on the strong health-tech market that includes front-runners like Nike's FuelBand and FitBit. 

"We've seen dramatic growth in this category," Karen Chupka, SVP international CES and corporate business strategy, told USA Today. "In 2013, we had 169 companies showing in the digital health and fitness category. This year, we have 215." Industry analysts estimate that wearables in general will reach upwards of a $30 billion market by 2018, up from $10 billion in 2013. 

At this year's show, more sophisticated sensor technology has spawned a new wave of heart rate monitors, GPS watches and foot pods that will propel consumers into a whole new level of fitness and health awareness. Here's a sample of some of the products that have debuted in the space so far:

ICEBlueButton makes your medical history available via mobile device to doctors in real-time, anywhere, and sends an emergency email with your location to your listed contact when activated.

- iHealthLabs tracks your sleep quality and monitors your personal health including glucose levels.

Myithlete keeps exercise devotees apprised of their heart rate for alternating training and recovery periods.

Skulpt Aim prototype measures body composition and fat with a wireless device held up to specific body parts. 

Heapsylon offers the world’s first ‘smart socks’ for runners (£100), tracking the rhythm of each footfall and stride length. The socks' embedded sensors can alert users to imminent injury or over-exertion.

Kolibree is the world’s first internet-connected toothbrush that analyzes user’s brushing habits and for $99 will “tell you whether you brushed long enough and reached the hard-to-reach but important parts of your teeth and gums.”

- CheckLight from Reebok is a skullcap with sensors that tracks head injuries. 

Bionym unveiled its Nymi wristband that verifies identity via unique heartbeat and could replace passwords, car keys and wallets.

RevUp uses data from devices like Fitbit’s Wi-Fi scale and Withings blood-pressure monitor, supplemented with lab tests to deliver customized advice. 

CCS analyst Ben Wood told Bloomberg Businessweek that despite more than $100 million invested by the public in online fundraising efforts for wearables, “many wearable devices will have their five minutes of fame at shows like CES before disappearing into oblivion," a plight faced by early entries such as Samsung's Galaxy Gear smartwatch and Sony's Smartwatch—devices that don't offer a distinct set of features from other mobile devices like smartphones or tablets, making them more about show than function. 

"'The killer app' for a wearable product with the right mix of form, function and price," said ABI Research analyst Josh Flood, "'hasn't been identified yet.'"

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