AI, VR, and concept cars grabbed most of the headlines at this year's CES consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, but these medical technologies on display at the event could help make a real difference in people's lives.
January 12, 2018
The annual CES trade show in Las Vegas is a chance for companies to showcase the technologies they hope consumers will fawn over in the next 12 months. Browsing the show floor, you'll see paper-thin televisions, hyper-realistic VR applications, drones zipping in every direction, and robots of all kinds. But while attendees often flock to booths that display flashy concept cars and the latest in gaming and smart home products, some of the most potentially impactful technology at the event is aimed at healthcare.
Click through to see the technologies that caught our eye at this year's event.
BoneTag Orthopedic Implant Monitor/Tracker
The BoneTag device, developed by a France-based team, is used to trace and identify problems associated with orthopedic implants. It plugs directly into the implant and contains an RFID antenna that allows providers to identify the implant from outside the body. The BoneTag device also contains pressure and temperature sensors used to detect signs of infection, inflammation, and movement, which can signal problems such as loss of adhesion to the bone. Information is received via a reader and proprietary software, and the company’s database keeps track of all records to compare changes over time.
The team is currently focusing on a version of the BoneTag for knee implants and has partnered with French orthopedic device maker Amplitude and Australian company Signature Orthopedics. The device is set to begin a clinical study at the end of 2018, with anticipated CE Marking in 2019. After that, developers hope to pursue approval for the knee version of BoneTag in the United States and Australia. The team is also working on extensions for hip and shoulder implants.
Brain Robotics Affordable Prosthetic Hand
Somerville, MA-based BrainRobotics is developing an intelligent, robotic prosthetic hand that amputees can actually afford. Such devices typically cost between $40,000 and $60,000, according to the company, but BrainRobotics is aiming to get its solution on the market for around $2,000 thanks to modular components and lightweight, less costly materials.
The company’s current prototype uses a Bluetooth-connected Myo gesture control device to detect electrical signals in the residual limb to allow users to control a robotic hand made with a 3-D printed shell and fingers. They’re still working out some kinks, however. For example, because the Myo device uses metal electrodes, sweat can interfere with the signal. The team hopes to solve that problem by developing proprietary hydrogels or textile-based sensors to optimize the signal-to-noise ratio, maintain skin contact, and offer more comfort to users.
Diabloop Artificial Pancreas
France-based Diabeloop is one of a number of companies pursuing artificial pancreas technology that would help people with type 1 diabetes manage their disease. The company’s solution uses a Bluetooth-connected continuous glucose sensor to monitor the patient’s glycemia and send data to a smartphone-based app, where it is analyzed by a proprietary algorithm that controls delivery of insulin by a connected patch pump. The technology works with the Dexcom G5 continuous glucose monitoring system, as well as insulin pumps made by Cellnovo, Kaelido, and Visentra.
Diabeloop is currently working to obtain the CE Mark, which it anticipates will happen in the next four months. If all goes well, it hopes to have the device on the market in Europe in 2018. The company is also in talks with FDA and hopes to begin the process to obtain approval in the United States by the end of this year.
Ellume Home Flu Test
Brisbane, Australia-based Ellume hopes to help consumers combat the flu and other common illnesses from the front lines—also known as the local drug store. The company is developing a home-based diagnostic platform that can test for influenza A and B, group A streptococcus, and eventually respiratory syncytial virus, tuberculosis, and some sexually transmitted diseases.
The Ellume system consists of an analyzer that connects to a smartphone and interfaces with an app, plus a sample collection kit. For the flu version, users swab their nostrils, combine the sample with processing fluid in a provided collection container, then place a few drops of the mixture on the analyzer. After 15 minutes, the app informs them whether they tested positive for the flu. Ellume envisions users will be able to pick up the test for around $20 at brick-and-mortar drug stores as well as online through retailers such as Amazon.
The company is currently wrapping up clinical validation studies on the sensitivity of the test and is currently going through the process to obtain the CE Mark. It hopes to submit to FDA by the end of the year.
It's an exciting prospect, a noninvasive procedure that harnesses magnetic resonance imaging and focused ultrasound energy to target and treat a host of maladies, ranging from neurological and cardiovascular problems to cancer. Focused ultrasound uses intersecting beams of energy to ablate tissue, disrupt cell growth, ramp up the immune system, and even deliver drugs, and it's gaining more and more attention.
The technology is currently approved in the United States to treat essential tremor, uterine fibroids, prostate cancer, and bone metastases, but that's only the beginning, according to the Focused Ultrasound Foundation.
ICI Vision Digital Eyewear
Israel-based ICI Vision is developing digital eyewear that could help improve sight in people with conditions such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. These patients typically have some remaining vision, so ICI’s solution uses cameras, eye tracking, artificial intelligence, computer vision, image processing, and retinal projection to fill in the blind spots, with no implantable component necessary.
The device has so far been tested in 60 patients, and the company hopes to launch the product in Israel within the next 18–24 months. Its main target market, however, is the United States, and it hopes to begin the FDA approval process within a year. The company is aiming to offer the device at $4,000.
Reflexion Edge Concussion Screening
Lancaster, PA-based Reflexion Interactive Technologies is taking a novel approach to concussion screening. Its Reflexion Edge tool uses a foldable touchscreen equipped with 2,500 LEDs to test users' dexterity, hand-eye coordination, peripheral vision, and lateral precision, with scores measured via the company's proprietary software. Used regularly, the system can detect changes that may indicate that a person has suffered a concussion, so they can be sent to a medical professional for diagnosis. Besides concussion screening, it can also be used for training and rehab.
The company is initially targetting high school athletic programs, to which it will provide the Reflexion Edge setup for a subscription fee that could be paid either by the school ($2,000 per year for the first three years, plus an initial $1,000 for the hardware) or by parents, who could pay $5 per month to receive push notifications informing them of their kids' screening results. It's a cost-effective solution when you consider that a single CAT scan, the current standard for diagnosing concussions, can cost as much as $2,000, according to Reflexion Interactive Technologies.