Mobile Grocery Stores, Ingestible Sensors, Smart Bathrooms… and other innovations from CES 2019

12 New Technologies
GameChanger was at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last week to check out new technologies likely to impact the consumer goods industry.  Here are the highlights:

1. Mobile Grocery Stores – Instead of going to the grocery store, the grocery store may soon be coming to you, making it easier to get fresh local produce and meat daily. The grocery store of the future will likely be a mobile unmanned kiosk, similar to the Panasonic eMart pictured here.  These unmanned kiosks are capable of roaming from neighborhood to neighborhood and displaying fresh produce, meat and other groceries in a temperature and humidity controlled environment.  Consumers can track the locations of eMarts on their smart-phone and can unlock the kiosk with their smart-phone.  All products have RFID tags, so when they are removed from the kiosk, consumers are automatically charged, and the kiosk can track its own inventory.

2. Ingestible Sensors – Instead of visiting the doctor, you may soon be taking pills with mini embedded sensors that can monitor and evaluate your health through the gastro-intestinal tract and send results to your smart-phone.  The sensors are currently able to measure pH, temperature and pressure.  But IMEC in Belgium and California-based Proteus Digital Health are currently working on applications to detect cancer, HIV and hepatitis C and other ailments.

3. Passive AI Consumer Research – Much has been made of the coming Artificial Intelligence boom, and it is likely to hit market research in a big way in the coming years. The Panasonic Human Characteristic Sensing Mirror looks like a normal mirror, but has high-resolution cameras and sensors that allow it – through artificial intelligence – to estimate age, height, gender, and heart rate of each individual passing by. The technology can be used to assess shopper demographics and shopper emotions in different areas of a store.

More advanced versions can also track emotion, stress and alertness in work settings by measuring facial expressions and concentration levels.  For a seated worker, it has thermal cameras that measure heat radiation, pressure sensors that detect small body movements and odor sensors that capture molecules associated with stress and sweating.  The system can also measure physical stress levels by muscle group in manual labor settings.

4. Sleep Tech – We’re all going to sleep better in the future, thanks to new sleep technology. Sleep science is a growing area, as most people do not get enough quality sleep.  In addition to measuring brain waves to evaluate sleep levels and stages, some of the new items at this year’s show included Pegasi Sleep Glasses, which use light therapy to help your body regulate melatonin levels.  By wearing them for 30 minutes each morning, melatonin release is more consistent at night when it is time for bed.  Another innovation is the Somnox Sleep Robot – a pillow that you cuddle.  The robot slowly breathes in and out during the night to help the user slow his or her own breathing.  For naps at work, there is the Dream Box from Silence Business Solutions – a recovery napping pod for workers with a bed and 12 light and sound atmospheres programmed to gently guide the user through a 15-minute power nap.

5. Smart Bathrooms – Even the lowly bathroom is about to get a makeover – smart bathrooms are coming.  The Kohler Perfect-Fill Bathtub will automatically fill your tub with just the right amount of water at just the right temperature, and you can command it to fill with Amazon Alexa.  There is also a Kohler toilet (the Numi 2.0) that operates with Amazon Alexa and provides music, lighting, a bidet and bottom-washer that can be personalized for each member of the household and operate on voice command.

6. Baby Care Tech – Baby care is about to get a whole lot easier with more attentiveness to the baby’s needs. The Owlet Baby Monitor (which is worn as a sock on the baby’s foot) not only tracks whether your baby is asleep or not, but it measures heart rate and oxygen levels to ensure your baby is always safe – and it connects with your smart-phone to send alerts.  There is also an Owlet Pregnancy Monitor – a soft fabric that pregnant women can wear around their abdomen to track their unborn baby’s heart rate, count its kicks and identify contractions.  For feeding time, there is the Blue Smart Baby Bottle, which monitors feeding amounts and makes sure milk is at the correct temperature and that the bottle angle is correct.  And for diapers the Monit Diaper Detector is a Bluetooth sensor that alerts parents via their smart-phone when the baby’s diaper has been soiled.  It can also differentiate between poop and pee.

7. Automated Clothing Care – Clothing Care is also becoming easier and more automated. The LG Styler is a new closet that steam cleans and gently agitates your clothes to freshen them and remove wrinkles between wearings.  The Haier Smart Shoe Closet is a shoe rack that sterilizes, deodorizes and dries shoes between wearings.

8. Augmented Reality Glasses – Soon you will be able to shop and get more information on products just by looking at them with Augmented Reality Glasses. Already selling to surgeons and other professionals, Vuzix, a leader in this space, is launching the Vuzix Blade for consumer applications.  The glasses pair with various Apps on your smartphone to allow the user to automatically see information by simply looking at an object.  Restaurant Reviews on Yelp can be accessed just by looking at the restaurant’s sign.  Product reviews and information can be accessed in store while you shop, just by looking at the product.

9. Pre-Fabricated Smart Homes – The housing industry is about to undergo major changes. Several companies are developing Pre-Fabricated Homes that are as luxurious as new construction at a fraction of the cost.  These homes may be a solution to many of the current urban housing problems.  One such operator, Kasita, has begun the Align Project, which produces Pre-Fabricated, green, zero-net homes that come with solar panels pre-installed, and has a small footprint with seamlessly integrated devices, appliances, lighting, and mechanical systems.  The homes can be installed on any concrete slab in just 4 hours, and are stackable.

10. Robot Bartender/ Home-Brewer – Cocktail-making is about to get easier and more precise. The new Barsys Automated Cocktail Maker is a counter-top machine that has 2000 pre-programmed recipes.  Alcohol bottles are connected on top and mixers on the side.  You operate it with your smart phone, and it mixes cocktails in seconds and fills your glass.

For Beer lovers, there is now the LG Homebrew machine, which is like a Keurig machine for making home-brewed craft beer from cartridges.  PicoBrew offers a similar beer-making system, as well as Pico Still for distilling spirits.

11. Hi-Tech Sports – Now you can compete against your favorite professional athletes, with a variety of virtual sports equipment designed to actually build physical skills. Much of this equipment was developed to help professional or college athletes get more realistic, repetitive practice, but it is becoming available on a wider basis now for the casual athlete.  The Strikezone Pitching Machine from EON Reality allows you to practice your batting in a batting cage with real pitches coming from a video image of your favorite professional pitcher, like Madison Baumgartner.  You can program it to throw certain types of pitches and also set up game situations and see the outcome and crowd noise from your hits.  For Hockey, there is Sense Arena that offers the same concept with hockey sticks and VR glasses.  And for Boxing, there is Bot Boxer, a robot punching bag that dodges your punches.

12. Other Honorable Mention new products

  • Robby Snackbot – Similar to the mobile grocery store, this bot brings snacks to office workers’ desks or students on college campuses and allows them to purchase with a smart-phone app. Pepsi is currently testing the Bot at the University of Pacific in Stockton, CA.
  • Bee Life – A new high-tech beehive that protects bees from parasitic mites, which have been reducing the bee population.
  • Bell Nexus Air Taxi – Essentially a drone for human passengers that runs on batteries with a range of 150 miles and seats 4 people.
  • LG Rollable TVs – Your flat-screen no longer needs to be flat. If you want to put it on a curved surface, the TV actually flexes to contour to the surface.
  • Real-time Translation – Now you can translate from one language to another in real time using ear buds. Several companies are making these.  Alibaba also offers a real-time hand-held voice translator that supports 30 languages.
  • Orig3n DNA testing – Orig3n goes beyond just understanding your heritage (like 23andMe) and helps decode personality traits, fitness and nutrition traits and factors that impact your tolerance to different foods and drugs as well as aging based on genetics. The tests can all be taken at home with a simple mouth swab.