The pharma giant unveiled its Lingo line of biometric wearables Thursday at CES 2022 in Las Vegas, continuing a trend in digital health innovation brought on in part by the pandemic.
Abbott Chairman Robert B. Ford introduced a new line of consumer-facing wearables at CES 2022, positioning the pharma giant near the top of a fast-growing digital health trend.
Ford unveiled Lingo, sensor-enhanced wearables designed to track biometrics such as blood glucose levels, ketones, lactate and even alcohol.
“This will be like having a window into your body,” he said. “It’s science that you will be able to access any time so you can understand what your body is telling you and what it needs. Our vision is that Lingo will go far beyond today’s wearables for consumers to help you proactively manage your health, nutrition, and athletic performance.”
Ford’s keynote highlights a busy week in Las Vegas, conducted on a mishmash of in-person and virtual venues due to COVID-19. His was the first keynote for a healthcare executive in the history of the Consumer Technology Association’s massive show, and represented the building interest in devices – especially wearables – that monitor and collect health and wellness data.
Perhaps just as important, healthcare organizations are taking an interest in those devices as they seek to balance in-person and virtual care and develop new programs that allow care providers to connect and collaborate with their patients outside the hospital, clinic or doctor’s office.
Ford’s announcement isn’t entirely ground-breaking: The company in one of many to have developed mHealth-enabled wearables over the past few years for people with diabetes and other chronic diseases. But it shows the healthcare industry’s growing interest in technology that’s designed first for the consumer, with engagement in mind. Healthcare providers have long sought to bridge the gap between clinical devices that accurately capture information but aren’t necessarily stylish and popular consumer technology (think Fitbit or the Apple Watch) that has been slow to prove that the data collected is reliable enough for clinical use.
According to Ford, Lingo is a step further in that direction, tracking biometrics that will not only help the user but his or her caregivers. That said, the small print in the advertising around these wearables points out that they’re “not for medical use,” and indication that providers still have to judge how to use the data.
Abbott’s announcement is just one of hundreds being made at and in conjunction with CES 2022, which is ending today (one day early, again as a result of concern over the pandemic). And digital health has been at the center of many of these announcements.
Among the more notable products being introduced this week are sensor-embedded rings, remote patient monitoring platforms, smart home products and mHealth apps that allow users to connect with care providers and peers and access personalized resources, particularly for mental and behavioral health concerns, substance abuse treatment, women’s health and sensitive issues like sex education and sexually transmitted diseases.
Of particular note are the innovative ideas being pitched by small start-ups and companies spun out of the healthcare industry, who often struggle in the shadow of the big tech giants. With COVID-19 pushing many vendors onto virtual platforms, the splashy press conferences and exhibit hall displays are muted, and the press releases and announcements are focused more on the technology and the uses than the glitz and glamor.
CTA President and CTO Gary Shapiro said in the days leading up to CES 2022 that he had decided not to go all-virtual because many of those small start-ups had invested a lot of time and energy in the show, and he didn’t want to rob them of that opportunity.
“Innovation can come from anywhere and anybody, and we must respect and encourage that,” he said in a commentary published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “This conviction informs all of our public policy positions, and the major tech companies — almost all of whom are our members — respect CTA for always looking out for smaller companies. Indeed, at CES and even as members of CTA, more than 80 percent of our membership is smaller companies. These companies and these founders are the ones I think of when I say it’s not time to pull the plug on CES 2022.”
Eric Wicklund is the Technology Editor for HealthLeaders.