January 23, 2019

Blockchain, Robotics, and Healthtech: Observations from CES 2019

Me and my mom attending
the final day of CES 2019
This post is the third and final one reflecting on my experience of attending CES®2019. The first post focused on a report published by AIG, an American insurer, that presents key questions Chief Information Security Officers and risk managers should be asking regarding IoT and cybersecurity and the second post explores a report produced by GfK, a market research firm, on how "Smart Lifers" are increasingly using connected devices and services, but worry about privacy and security. This post looks at some of the companies and products that I saw during the annual consumer electronics show in Las Vegas, Nev.

I appreciate how CES attracts industry attendees, exhibitor personnel, and media from around the world (over 63,000 individuals from outside the United States attended CES in 2018, according to the Consumer Technology Association, an Arlington, Va.-based trade organization that owns and produces CES). During this year's exhibition, I spent time visiting with startups from Qatar, an oil-rich Middle East country with a population of 2.6 million people.

Among the several Qatari companies exhibiting their products or services, I enjoyed talking with Hesham Elfeshawy and learning about At Home Doc, a digital health platform supporting on-demand home doctor and other healthcare services. The application also provides virtual consultation and telemedicine enabled by voice transcription.

The Eureka Park™ marketplace at CES provides startups with a unique opportunity to showcase their ingenuity. Walking around the startup exhibits, I met Tammy Dorsey, the founder and chief executive of Prenatal Hope, a Kansas-based company that created the VivO2, a utero testing device that instantly and effectively reads fetus oxygen levels. Ms. Dorsey said that by measuring a baby's pH level, VivO2 provides attending doctors the crucial data necessary to make confident decisions and accurately detect fetal distress. She added that her company "exists to provide hope for families through reducing infant mortality with our biomedical innovations." (Wichita State University, where Ms. Dorsey received her undergraduate degree and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in  published an article on Nov. 6, 2018 that provides a good overview of the goals Ms. Dorsey is trying to achieve through her company.)

Ellie Smart Pill Box
Regina Vatterott serves as the co-founder of EllieGrid. Her company in Texas created the Ellie Smart Pill Box, a Bluetooth-enabled pillbox for families and individuals with healthy lifestyles that organizes pills by type instead of time. As a result, you can refill Ellie in seconds by simply pouring your pills straight from the bottle into one of the seven appropriate compartments.

In the demo provided by Ms. Vatterott, I was intrigued to hear an alarm and lights simultaneously flash when it is time to take the pills. After opening the device, specific lights were illuminated indicating which pills to take and how many. For those who need to take some pills more than once a day, the user can set multiple alarms through the EllieGrid app.

As an avid walker (and I certainly walked several miles throughout my time at CES), I can appreciate any product that will bring comfort to my feet. The French company Digisole designed the PODOSmart, which is a connected insole that provides gait analysis, facilitates walking balance, 3D motion analysis, and monitors stride pattern, and evolution tracking. For walking in cold climates, Digisole's Warm Series are designed to keep your feet warm.

QTrobot designed for children
with autism spectrum disorder 
Since a close friend and her husband have a daughter with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), I am mindful of products or services tailored to helping people that encounter challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. Designed by LuxAI in Luxembourg, the QTrobot, an expressive humanoid social robot that is a friend, tutor and teacher for children with ASD. According to a marketing brochure, "With QTrobot, children can learn emotional and social skills in a simplified and engaging manner."

Moreover, "QTrobot comes with multiple educational programs for autism. Each of these programs focuses on one set of skills which is necessary for children to learn in order to be more independent and socially more interactive." It is also worth noting that the LuxAI booth was distributing copies of the findings of a study, More Attention and Less Repetitive and Stereotyped Behaviors Using a Robot with Children with Autism, which is aimed "to access the usefulness of QTrobot, a socially assistive robot, in interventions with children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by assessing children's attention, limitation, and presence of repetitive and stereotyped behaviors."

While I still hold some skepticism about the long-term global adoption of cryptocurrency, I do support the underlying blockchain technology as a distributed ledger, or database, shared across a public or private computing network. As such, I found my visit to Pundi X's booth to see their blockchain-based solution for digitalizing any store quite interesting. Zac Cheah, co-founder and chief executive of the Singapore-based company, said customers can conduct cryptocurrency transactions using traditional fiat currency, bank cards, mobile wallets or the Pundi X PASS Card.

SecuX Technology, Inc. is a blockchain security company devoted to developing comprehensive solutions to secure people's valuable digital assets in blockchain. The Taiwanese company lists the following security features for its SecuX Crypto Hardware Wallet: A CC EAL 5 certified SE to secure private key and device PIN from attacks; tamper proof firmware pre-load and upgrade mechanism; a personalized PIN code or one-time-password to control the access to device or wallet applications; randomized digital keypad to avoid following keystrokes; physical confirmation for each transaction to avoid man-in-the-middle attacks; and anti-tamper packaging. Howard Liao, Managing Director of SecuX's European office in Germany, said the SecuX wallets support cryptocurrencies such as BTC, BCH, ETH, LTC, XRP and ERC-20 for the time being.

I had a wonderful conversation with Alex Mashinsky, the founder and chief executive of Celsius Network, a blockchain-based borrowing and lending platform, founded in the U.K., whose goal is to bring the next 100 million people into cryptocurrency. Mr. Mashinsky said his company is providing "a new way to earn, borrow, and pay on the blockchain."

Based in France, Billal Chouli, founder and chief technology officer of NeuroChain, said his company "is the next-generation of blockchain technology that improves the security, reliability, and scalability of current blockchain protocols." Dr. Chouli added that NeuroChain "is the first genuinely decentralized, energy-efficient blockchain, powered by machine learning and artificial applications."

Mark Mueller-Eberstein and Phil Klein
talking with attendees from their book talk
One more item to mention is my attendance of a book talk featuring Mark Mueller-Eberstein and Phil Klein, co-authors of The Trust Technology: How Blockchain is changing your world. You can watch the discussion in its entirety through this link or the video embedded below. (I will publish a review of the book in a future post on this blog.)

If you attended CES 2019, what did you see that captured your attention or imagination?

Aaron Rose is an advisor to talented entrepreneurs and co-founder of great companies. He also serves as the editor of Solutions for a Sustainable World.

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