You may well be aware that CES has been running this week. As all the commentators say, many of the more exciting innovations seem to have stayed away – certainly healthcare has been particularly unexciting. The official listing of digital health exhibitors seems to be crammed with new and supposedly innovative remote patient monitoring offerings that seem to cover every eventuality including pre-birth – no longer is telehealth just for the original three long-term conditions (diabetes, HF & COPD) that the Whole System Demonstrator tested it for. As an assessor of funding proposals it amazes me that there is still a steady stream of would-be entrepreneurs that are unaware of RPM and propose the development of devices that in many cases are already outdated. (A common feature of those proposals is being unaware of medical regulation too so we are doing our best to organise an MHRA webinar soon to fix that).

One product that caught my eye, mainly because it reminded me of predictions made long ago by the great Prof Kevin Doughty  is the Barracoda Themis, a “smart” mirror that measures your heart rate, skin complexion etc. to advise you on health & wellness. Completely unnecessarily (to my eyes anyway) it will also start your shower, run your bath etc. At least for the wellness stuff, there’s no doubt that a mirror that responds to you will be an exciting bathroom addition for many, however Kevin has been predicting it for so long that it feels outdated even it’s actually arrived.

As a (tiny) shareholder in Teladoc I was pleasantly reassured to see Jason Gorevic, the CEO, performing so confidently as he explained how the pandemic had done great things for his business and how with two recent acquisitions he is now expanding his remote patient management services round the world, most recently starting up in Denmark. He sees telehealth as the mainstream now with no going back once the virus is tamed; for the sake of our members (and my shares) I hope he’s right.

Ultrahuman is “a fitness platform that helps users meditate, workout efficiently, and optimise their sleep with the help of athletes, neuroscientists, artists, and psychologists – all in one place.” Great video though personally I’d have preferred to see some plain human users rather than the ultrahumans working out there. Thankfully Mighty Health has a more age-friendly approach.

Finally on the digital health front, the weirdest device I came across was the Petit Qoobo which is essentially a piece of fake fur with a tail that wags depending on how the owner treats it. I haven’t tried it, obviously, however the thought does not appeal.

A less usual presentation that caught my eye was from Mindy Grossman of WW International (the rebranded WeightWatchers) that emphasised the point that every company now is a digital company – they’d even had a period recently when non-food sales exceeded sales of slimming foods for the first time.

AI was everywhere, however there was a great session on building trust in AI, which has been well written up by Mobihealthnews. The central theme of course is that if you cannot understand how a piece of software has reached a particular conclusion, you need to have trust which, according to Pat Baird, the senior regulatory specialist at Philips is at three levels: technical trust, regulatory trust and human trust.

The first level asks if the algorithm does what it was designed to do.

On the regulator side, the software must be able to stand up to different agencies’ expectations and requirements.

But at the end of the day, the product must stand up to user scrutiny and that includes professionals who want assurance that it works and that they will get paid if they use it.

Harking back again to my earlier comments about assessment experiences, it is becoming increasingly frequent that mention of AI in proposals is becoming ubiquitous, although there is an increasing tendency not to go into any detail which is unhelpful to the assessor – this topic merits careful scrutiny therefore.

For me the excitement was in the auto area where there were some stunning presentations with people standing seemingly in the middle of a hall as cars/vans/person-carrying drones etc. around them were assembled, disassembled or suddenly made semi-transparent as they spoke. The best for me was the GM one although, at least on my PC, the picture lagged the voice by so much that it was painful to try to lipread. We took a ride in a genuinely driverless car which was most impressive.

What came across was that cars are going to become essentially like short-distance private jets – the layout of all seats in a semi/circle so occupants can converse, watch a screen or what have you is striking, with a steering wheel hidden away behind one of the front seats on the off-chance that you might need to help the car up a private drive or other obstacle that its sensors fail on. They are of course all electric too, so you need have no guilt about polluting the planet (although you will, with tyre and brake dust). And for most it need not be a wholly-owned private jet experience either as there’s little point of having one sitting in your drive when they can come at a single command. Here is the GM presentation, and the Mercedes Benz one.