There’s no question that COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives for the last year. Along with having to take several safety precautions, many of us are also working from home, some for the first time. Kids are going to virtual school. Meetings are being held online using services like Zoom and Google Meet. And trade shows are virtual, too. That includes the largest North American trade show for the tech industry, CES, which, because of COVID-19, switched to an entirely digital format for CES 2021.
Along with physical booths being replaced by clickable icons and video and text-based chats becoming the alternative to in-person conversations, COVID-19 also re-shaped the types of products that manufacturers, big and small, are developing and showcasing at CES. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of health tech at CES.
Purify the air
One of the new key focuses at CES 2021 are devices designed for helping clean the air, ridding it of bacteria and viruses. Products like air purifiers are not new: they have been in homes and businesses for many years, especially beneficial for those with allergies, asthma, and/or pets.
But at CES 2021, there’s a burgeoning category of personal and portable air purifiers you can take with you. It likely won’t be uncommon in the future to see these gadgets on tables at restaurants and coffee shops, keeping the immediate air around you clean while you enjoy a meal or drinks with friends, or to see one at every desk in an office.
While air purifiers saw a rise in sales during the pandemic as people began to look at ways to breathe cleaner air at home, COVID-19 will lead to growing interest in purifying on the go as well. CES will continue to be the hotbed for introducing clever new ways to do this, whether it’s through pocketable, or even wearable, devices going forward.
Clear the air
LG Puricare Mini Portable Air Purifier
Clean the air while on-the-go
Sanitize just about everything
As a result of COVID-19, “sanitize” has become a buzzword at the show, and plenty of products that take the action to an entirely new level are being introduced.
Basic screen cleaning solutions have always been a big part of CES: it’s not uncommon to find people lining up at a booth like WHOOSH! for a free smartphone screen cleaning with a safe, antibacterial solution. One study found that viruses like COVID-19 can survive on a phone screen for almost a month, after all!
WHOOSH?, a leader in the space, has expanded its focus this year by showcasing the Sanitech powered by Halo OX at CES 2021, a device and surface sanitizer – not just cleaner – that is a broad-spectrum disinfectant. Safe to use on all touchscreen glass, it can help eliminate infectious organisms in bacteria in half a minute, thus reducing the growth of microorganisms on treated surfaces by 99.99%. It works the same as any standard cleaner: spray and wipe using a microfiber cloth. It’s odorless, with no added dyes, VOCs, or fragrances; and it’s hypo-allergenic, non-corrosive, and 100% biodegradable, making in eco-friendly as well.
Scosche, once again, has an interesting innovation in this space with its MagicFogger, a handheld device that sprays a mist of FDA-approved HOCL Electrolyzed Water that it calls MagicFog. The solution attaches to, attacks, and kills a variety of germs and viruses, and is said to be 100% organic, so you don’t have to worry that it could harm a person, pet, or the environment. Ideal for using in the car, office, school, restaurant, or airplane, it can kill 99.94% of microbes and Scosche says it is “highly effective against viruses.” Powered by a 3,200mAh rechargeable battery, the reservoir can hold up to 1.5 ounces of the solution and the device will come with an 8-ounce bottle to get you started (order more online as needed.) It’s scheduled to be available in Spring 2021.
One category that is always huge at CES is screen protectors and phone cases. That hasn’t changed this year, but COVID-19 has shifted the trend in a different direction. No longer are screen protectors being touted primarily for their ability to protect your phone’s screen from shattering if you accidentally drop it, or to prevent fingerprints from gathering on the surface, they’re being promoted for their anti-microbial properties instead. The Axiom Anti-Microbe ScreenFilm, for example, is a self-healing membrane that adds anti-microbe properties to fend off viruses and germs from the surface.
Out damn spot!
WHOOSH! Sanitech powered by Halo OX
Keep device screens sparking clean
Let there by UV light
But that has always been a fairly small category of product at CES – you might find a handful of such sanitizing devices littered throughout the show floor. This year, however, a large percentage of e-mail pitches and virtual booths are focused on UV-C light products that sanitize high-touch surfaces and devices.
Similar to Phonesoap, the Utilimedic America UV8LED In-Car Phone Sanitizer and Charger is designed specifically for use in the car. Use it to disinfect your smartphone, along with a credit card, keys, and even face mask, so everything is fresh and clean by the time you get home from the grocery store. It, too, uses UV-C light to fully sanitize anything you put inside, eliminating up to 99.9% of germs, viruses, and harmful bacteria in five minutes. As a plus, it can even recharge a second Qi-enabled phone wirelessly on top; and rubber cord slots on either side allow for an Apple CarPlay or Android Auto connection while the phone is being cleaned.
Drive and clean
Utilimedic America UV8LED In-Car Phone Sanitizer and Charger
Sanitize while you drive
Usually, people have opted for fashionable cloth, disposable, or medical-grade N95 masks. But the tech industry has jumped in with both feet and come up with clever solutions to some of the most common pain points.
The most talked about mask from the show is Razer’s Project Hazel, which is still in the prototype stage but offers compelling features. Providing sufficient protection via the surgical N95 respirator, it also includes a detachable ventilator to help regulate airflow. It comes with its own UV charging case (there’s that UV technology again!) for sanitizing and sterilizing it after wear, while also recharging the internal battery.
Work from home, play at home gear
Smart home gear has always been popular at CES, and this year, that’s more than ever as people look for ways to not necessarily automate tasks, but be able to enjoy things like music around the house and access to streaming services from every TV in the home.
Can you hear me?
Shure MV5C Home Office Microphone
Improve your sound
Other ways CES is being reshaped due to COVID-19
A big part of CES 2021 is not only the virtual exhibits and “booths,” but also the keynote speeches, conference sessions, interviews, and pointed discussions. These are a lot easier to “attend” virtually since there are no line-ups nor logistical issues in getting from one to the next in a short span of time. (Though there have admittedly been sporadic technical issues).
Source: CES Tech Screen Shot
Meanwhile, topics that have been growing in interest over the past few years are enjoying accelerated attention due to COVID-19, like voice technology and assistants. It’s no longer just convenient to have a touchless faucet, toilet, lights, and door handles, it’s an essential need, particularly in public venues.
Is CES forever changed?
Fingers and toes are crossed that CES will return to its usual set-up in January 2022. Despite how much we loathe paying the exorbitant Las Vegas hotel fees, regret drinking too much and staying out too late, and inevitably work ourselves to exhaustion, it’s tough not to miss the grind.
Will the focus and direction of the show be re-shaped for good? One could argue that CES, which was once upon a time a show focused almost entirely on hifi audio, has always been evolving. What was once a small section of automotive tech now occupies an entire area. Categories like wearables and smart home that used to fit in one floor of one hall in the Convention Center was moved to an entirely different convention area a few years ago to accommodate the exploding growth. Technologies that we never imagined would be at CES have become primary parts of the show.
Will masks, air purifiers, sanitizing products, and other related gear, follow that same trajectory? Will working from home tech gear become a central demo next year? It’s possible, and probably likely. Even when COVID-19 is under control, the way we work, play, and live may forever be changed. We have become more cognizant of not spreading germs or breathing in polluted air and have gotten used to new ways of doing things, whether it’s setting up a home office or finding more creative ways to spend time with loved ones at home.
If health tech at CES can offer solutions that help us improve our overall health and well-being, it’s an area that’s well worth continuing to focus on at the show, not only in the products that are on display and the sessions that are held, but also in the way we approach our interactions once we can go back to being there in person.
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