CES Trend: Digital health gadgets galore

Among the expected rows of new televisions, computers, phones and tablets at the Consumer Electronics Show is a growing number of health gadgets. These vary in form and function, but nearly all of them share some common elements: connectivity, mobile applications and social aspects.

These devices are no longer the domain of the geeks and early adopters but are hitting their mainstream stride as prices have dropped on gadgets with more and more sensors to monitor our health. The mobile app revolution and rise of social networks have helped bring such health-related tools to the forefront as well. Here’s a peek at just a few of those sharing floor space with the traditional consumer electronic gadgets:

Fitbit’s Aria Wi-Fi Smart Scale ($130). This glass-topped, industrial-looking scale looks like any other simple scale, but it has some brains inside. The Aria can report weight, Body Mass Index (BMI) and percentage of body fat for up to eight people. It’s smart enough to know which of the eight is on the scale so you don’t have to “log in” to check your stats. And because it has a Wi-Fi radio built-in, all information can automatically be sent to your personal profile on the Fitbit site. If you’re not shy, the data can be shared via Twitter or Facebook. The product ships in April. Metria Sensor Patch (TBD). BodyMedia is partnering with Avery Dennison(a avy) to combine sensors and software for short-term health monitoring. A seven-day wearable patch prototype is on display at CES, and is meant to be discreetly worn. The Metria patch technology is Avery Dennison’s; looking like a large band-aid on your triceps, the patch monitors your body activity. BodyMedia — creators of the Fit armband system — supply the software algorithm’s to interpret data from the Metria, which can be seen on a smartphone. Metria can be used by health professionals or consumers to track up to 5,000 data points per minute, such as calories, sleep patterns and steps taken. Basis Band ($199). It looks like a watch, but it’s actually a device that monitors your heart rate while it tells time as well. Obviously, I’ve seen heart rate monitors before, but what makes the Basis Band different is the lack of a chest strap and multiple sensors. Combining a heart monitor with temperature sensors and an accelerometer provides a more complete health picture, according to the company. For now, you’ll need to connect the Basis Band to a computer via a USB cable to get your sleep and activity data uploaded, but Bluetooth support is coming soon. Watch for the Basis Band this spring.

Valencell’s V-LINK. Less a product you can buy and more of a technology that can be licensed, the Valencell is very unique. Instead of using a chest strap or wearable device, Valencell’s many sensors use the ear as the body part for measuring health data. That means V-LINK is perfect for use in headphones, since many people exercise to music. Using the ear, Valencell can capture a wide range of data, such as heart and respiration rate, energy expenditure, metabolic rate, recovery time and VO2 Max; a measure of cardiovascular fitness. These extra data points are ideal for fitness freaks like myself, and I hope to see this technology adopted by a headphone company soon.

DisclosureFitbit and Valencell are backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

Update: The disclosure was updated to include Valencell at 4:08 p.m.