As we kick-start the year in the throes of a pandemic, it comes as no surprise that the stellar tech expo of the year, CES 2021, is taking to the virtual stage. But it still packs a punch, with attendees tuning in from their makeshift home offices around the world to uncover the latest innovations. This year, it is the intersection of the smart home and wellness that caught our eye, highlighting the healing power of technology for a cooped-up world in which health is no longer taken for granted.

Technology’s incredible ability to connect us took the limelight in 2020, providing access to emotional support, helping us to re-invent our healthcare routines and to stay social. Digital healthcare has never been so important and human-centric technological innovations are what the world craves. The smart home is where it comes together. Here are the best bits from CES that we think could make waves:

  1. Home workouts: The mirror image of wellness

The NordicTrackVault brings the gym home with high-tech style. Stocked with custom work out equipment and complete an innovative 60-inch reflective touch screen, allowing users to view their own form while following a digitised personal trainer.

Mirror displays could become an important component of not only wellness but also of telehealth in the future. Imagine a world where such mirrors can measure your heart rate and personalise workouts based on your fitness levels, putting you in touch with a clinician if a problem occurs?

  1. Caring from afar: Keeping loved ones safe

Not your usual smart home device, DiCE CARE is an intelligent hub designed to help look after our loved ones when we’re not around. It reads, interprets and remembers daily routines using environmental intelligence while acting as a reminder for actions and errands that need running via an app. If anything seems out of the ordinary, it allows users to remind loved ones from afar – providing the elderly with a prolonged sense of independence.

This is another smart home innovation that could benefit the world of telehealth, when used by professional carers and clinicians—supporting patients, providing patient insights and enabling them to respond to any issues more hastily.

  1. Dumping your health data, in the smart toilet

The bizarre Toto Wellness concept toilet goes where no one else dares to go, examining not-so-pretty faecal matter to determine how healthy we are. It senses and analyses the user’s body and key outputs in order to recommend ways of improving health. Although this concept is not likely to come to market for several years,  the data could one day be used by clinicians to help analyse any potential health problems. This is another string to telehealth’s bow, with the ability to track daily health without being connected to our bodies 24/7.

While we future gaze, pondering a world where caring for our parents will be easier, personal trainers will be more accessible and we think twice about using anyone else’s toilet, there are real business and communications issues to unpick here.

Firstly, this sweet spot is lucrative. According to Global Market Insights, the market size of telehealth in 2019 was around $45 billion and is projected to grow to more than $175 billion by 2026. Meanwhile, the smart home market is expected to grow from $78.3 billion in 2020 to $135.3 billion in 2025. In a digitally hybrid world where healthcare is democratised and wellness a given, we can look forward to more innovation.

But as we put healthcare and wellness into the hands of individuals and into the bellies of our homes with smart tech, questions around data privacy and security are critical. Maintaining trust is critical for any business, but when it comes to health data, our most sensitive data, it is absolutely vital. In order to realise the immense power of future technologies that promise to put human health and wellness first, today’s technology companies need to be prepared to navigate a fresh and winding path transparently and sensitively.

This requires a strong focus on the human impact and implications of business strategies, willingness to boldly tell this story while proactively and transparently facing head-on the challenges that will inevitably cross their path. Excellent, future-focused communications plugged with industry insights and expertise will set the smart home and telehealth winners apart. We’re rooting for them