Replacement markets are mostly boring. The exciting markets are for gadgets that nobody owns today -- perhaps they don’t even exist -- but everybody will want in the next 10 years. Those are the areas where hundreds of start-ups will thrive and a few entrepreneurs will become fabulously rich. Personal healthcare technology is that sort of market.
As a result, next year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in January in Las Vegas, will feature its first Digital Health Summit and Exhibition to focus on "health and wellness" technologies. It’s based on the belief that "billions of dollars … will be spent by a tech-enabled adult population over the next several years for solutions that help them manage their own health, as well as providing care for an aging parent."
I’m not surprised. In fact, when reporting this year’s CES, I thought the highlight of the keynote speeches was the appearance of Eric Topol, who is, among other things, chief medical officer of the West Wireless Health Institute. He showed an impressive range of health gadgets including Zeo's device for measuring sleep quality, a Corventis PiiX heart monitor, and a small machine for doing echo cardiograms -- a sort of high-tech stethoscope.
I’ve also spent 25 years following futurist Ray Kurzweil, who is one of the world’s leading inventors. Kurzweil developed a reading machine in 1976 (Stevie Wonder bought the first) and one of the first music synthesisers in 1984. Two of his books, The Age of Intelligent Machines (1990) and The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999), are essential reading.
If I can sum up his position, Kurzweil has predicted rapid improvements in healthcare technology, and his plan is to arrive in 2025 in the best physical shape possible: to Live Long Enough to Live Forever. By then, he believes that we will have technologies that enable people to live for a very long time. Indeed, he thinks doctors will eventually be able to inject us with intelligent nanobots that will be able to repair our bodies from the inside. This could be the ultimate in healthcare technology.
Not many computer technologists start writing (somewhat cranky) books about health and nutrition, but Kurzweil got a wake-up call when he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes at the age of 35. I understand why Bayer signed up one of the Jonas Brothers to promote the Contour USB, rather than Kurzweil. But really, he should have invented it.