Catherine Boivie at CES 2018: A look at products for seniors

It might seem like I was able to share a veritable cornucopia of CES’s many technological toys with readers, but with more than 3900 vendors at the show, I was able to cover only a small portion of the exhibits on display.

I’ve come to believe this is by design: CES wants people to wander around, dazzled by the enormous variety of booths. But I’m less certain the vendors want it that way.

This year, I made a list of booths that sounded interesting, writing down names and booth numbers, then used the CES map app to try to find them. You’d think that with my preparation I would have easily found what I was looking for, but in practice it wound up being like a game of “Where’s Waldo?” The booths weren’t always in numerical order, and while I could occasionally find support staff with “ask me” who had the right information, there were far too few of them.

If CES organizers the Consumer Technology Association were to ask for my advice on next year’s show, aside from encouraging them to prepare proper backup power, I would suggest they help attendees by improving their map app and doubling the number of “ask me” staff.

Onto the technology…

As promised, for my fourth and final (for now) CES 2018 update, I’m highlighting some items that I think would be of interest to seniors – young and old alike – and those who assist seniors. The last item is my personal favourite.

An interesting angle on medical identification, ID Vitae incorporates a QR code into a bracelet, necklace, ID card, or keyring that links to the owner’s identification and medical history, including several identification numbers, phone number, and family situation. For those concerned about privacy, scanning the code produces a request for a personal secret code that either requires the user to open the profile, or allows the scanner to simply notify the user’s emergency contact.

The benefits in a medical emergency are obvious enough: by scanning the device with their smartphone, emergency service workers can, at the very least, immediately be connected with the patient’s emergency contact, allowing them to quickly learn of any medical conditions that might affect someone unable communicate them.

The obvious risk, however, is that hackers could have access to your personal information simply by entering a secret code.

I could easily see glasses-wearers who rely on bifocals considering the switch to Dynafocals, a new type of smart glasses that change in focus real-time based on what the user is viewing. In other words, unlike standard progressive glasses, people wearing Dynafocals will not have to shift their glasses or heads to see distant objects, computer screens or print. 

The device accomplishes this with a distance sensing chip, which automatically adjusts a standard progressive lens to bring whatever the user is viewing into focus. It will be available this fall for $150 USD.

Oscar Senior is a mobile app that turns any Android or iOS device into a senior-friendly device. Its developer is promoting the app as an easy for way seniors to get online and connect with family and friends by sharing pictures and messages.

The app is a subscription based service and currently costs $5 USD per month. It’s presently available in 85 countries worldwide, with roughly 9000 users in the U.S.

For the person without a green thumb, WallGarden is the ideal solution. It’s an automated indoor garden that allows you to grow up to 14 different plants – no experience neccesary. The WallGarden is WiFi-enabled, and the software guides you through every step.

The app measures and manages your plants’ health of by adjusting its light and automatically feeding each plant. All you need to do is to refill the water container every other week.

WallGarden was not only on display, but launched at CES, and will soon be available for $199 USD. The tray on the left shows the planter as it arrives, and on the right the same planter in full bloom.

Finally, I want to tell you about one of the most interesting products I saw at this year’s CES – one I’m thinking of getting for myself.

This is the Smacircle, a lightweight ebike made of carbon fibre that weighs only 15.4 pounds, can reach speeds of up to 12 miles per hour, and, as its developers are fond of pointing out, can easily be folded up and carried in a backpack (or the convenient Smacircle trolley bag). An accompanying app, available on both iOS and Android, monitors the device’s (Samsung) battery usage in addition to locking and unlocking the bicycle. The bike can run for 20 kilometres on a single battery, which takes two hours to charge.

More impressively, The bike costs only $699 USD on Indiegogo – at least until February, after which it will double in price.

That’s it for my on-the-ground reports from CES 2018, though I’ll have two special blogs in the next month about the smart watches and technology-assisted sleeping aids that I saw at CES 2018.

Catherine Aczel Boivie
Catherine Aczel Boivie
Dr. Catherine Aczel Boivie is a widely respected executive with over 30 years of experience in the leadership of advancing the value of information technology as a business and education enabler. Prior executive roles includes: CEO Inventure Solutions and Senior Vice President of Information Technology/Facility Management for Vancity Credit Union; SVP of IT and Chief Information Officer at Pacific Blue Cross and Canadian Automobile Association of British Columbia. Catherine is also an experienced board member serving on several boards, including those of Commissioner for Complaints for Telecom-television Services, Canada Foundation for Innovation and MedicAlert Canada. Dr. Boivie is the founding Chair and President of the Chief Information Officers (CIO) Association of Canada that has over 400 Chief Information Officers as members across Canada. She has been publicly recognized for her contributions, including being named as one of Canada's top 100 most powerful women by the Women's Executive Network in the "Trailblazers and Trendsetters" category and the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee medal for being a "catalyst for technology transformation".

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