Take it at face value, and CES seems like the most superficial, materialistic show there is. And in many ways, that's true. But after a look around the conference, it was evident that there are so many products, services, and gadgets out there that are doing great things for science, math, education, art, health, and more.
Here are 10 inspiring, important things I saw at CES this year.
1. Bee, the smart insulin pen
This is the world's first Bluetooth smart tracker of insulin injections and blood sugar. It transmits data to an app on smartphones and tablets. The app has a logbook of injection and blood sugar level history to help decrease the risk of mismanaged injections. The gadget was an honoree for the biotech CES Innovation Award.
2. Siemens Binax
These smart hearing aids can help hearing-impaired people have better hearing experiences than people with normal hearing. The aids are particularly powerful in locations where it is already difficult to hear because of noise volume. These Binax hearing aids can be controlled through an app on smartphones as well.
3. Valedo back therapy
Hocoma has a Valedo Therapy Concept they were demoing at CES. The company makes ValedoShape, ValedoMotion and Valedo, all products for a heathy back. The entire system was made to help people reach their therapy goals. Two sensors go on your chest and lower back while you play a game to help your specific back pain points.
The LilyPad was also created by Vigilant, who is responsible for the smart diabetes tracker. This device, though, is the first Wi-Fi enabled pool thermometer and UV sensor. Toss the gadget in the pool and leave it there. It links to an app on your smartphone or tablet to tell you what the UV rays that day are and what type of sunscreen you or your children need, based on the skin type you describe. It was also an honoree at the CES innovation awards.
5. Spend Consciously
Spend Consciously helps you make purchasing decisions that align with your values. Last year, they built an app called BuyPartisan, a free app that tells you about a company's political donations. Knowing not everyone cares enough about politics, the founders started Spend Consciously and are now coming out with an app called Eye$pend, which tells you about your products while creating a collection of values based on you and other consumers. This app will look at environmental practices and social values of companies.
This company makes more realistic baby products that make life easier for parents. At CES, 4Moms was showing off the Rockaroo infant seat which has a unique rocking motion that mimics parents. The company did many tests to find out exactly how to best rock a baby for maximum sensation of motion. They also have special playpens, seats, and tubs.
7. Girl Scouts
Girl Scouts have of course been around for a long time, but they only just launched digital cookie sales, which they hope will improve their funding greatly. Members of a troop in Oregon were at CES showing off the new site, which will help them sell and distribute more cookies much more efficiently. Girl Scouts also works with STEM education, so this fits in nicely with their updated mission and work to help girls get more interested in STEM careers.
8. Volvo concept helmet
As cycling continues to grow, so does the number of accidents on the road. To help tackle that problem, Volvo developed a connected car and bicycle helmet to reduce accidents. It gives Volvo drivers and cyclists a proximity alert via smartphone app. If a collision is calculated by the system, both parties are warned — the cyclist through a helmet light and the car via a display alert. This is a collaboration between Volvo, Ericsson, and POC, a manufacturer of sports protective gear.
Neurotrack is an online quiz aimed to help transform how Alzheimer's is diagnosed. It's a computer-based visual cognitive test that can help doctors see Alzheimer's three to six years before symptoms start appearing.
This French company has developed a platform that allows people with language disorders — particularly autism — to communicate via tablet application. The app has several parts, the main one being the communicator tool, which allows children to point to an object and the app says the word for them. Parents can also take photos of any object and upload it to the system, or record their own voice so the child isn't startled by a stranger's voice. There are several other aspects to the product, including a pain communicator, where the child points to a drawing of a body part and a pain level; a diary to keep track of parts of their day; and an emotion chart to explain how they are feeling. It's mainly used for children right now, but the company is updating the UI to make it a better experience for adults.
Lyndsey Gilpin has nothing to disclose. She doesn't hold investments in the technology companies she covers.
Lyndsey Gilpin is a former Staff Writer for TechRepublic, covering sustainability and entrepreneurship. She's co-author of the book Follow the Geeks.