[News Focus] Korean firms boast healthcare tech power at CES

Jeong Sae-im  Published 2020.01.14  11:45  Updated 2020.01.14 11:45


- Local regulations limit expansion of advanced healthcare services

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – The world’s largest home appliances and IT exhibition, CES 2020, closed the four-day event in Las Vegas, the U.S., on Friday.

The healthcare sector, in particular, made significant progress at CES this year. Many Korean healthcare companies showcased their best technologies and ideas. Still, many of their services were unavailable in Korea due to domestic regulations.

The Sands Expo Hall exhibited various healthcare companies’ innovative products during CES 2020 in Las Vegas, the U.S., through Friday.

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the organizer of the event, chose digital therapeutics as the first of the five technology trends to watch at CES 2020. With more attention in digital healthcare, the number of healthcare companies increased more than 20 percent this year, compared to last year.

Just several years ago, it was rare to see healthcare companies participate in CES. But now, it has become natural for both small startup firms and conglomerates to display technologies that integrate digital and healthcare services.

At the Sands Expo Hall, where new technologies were introduced, various healthcare companies exhibited related products in sleep tech, fitness, wellness, and medicine, including diagnosis and treatment. At the Korea hall within Eureka Park, 24 out of 67 Korean companies’ booths were from the healthcare sector.

This year, more Korean companies received the CES Innovation Awards.

At the Innovation Awards Showcase Hall within the Sands Expo, WELT displayed “Smart Belt Pro,” an updated version of the previous model that added the world’s first fall prevention function.

Other Innovation Award recipients included Neofact for “Smart Balance,” a lower-body rehabilitation device, Olive Healthcare for “Bello,” a digital belly fat scanner, EXOSYSTEMS for “exoRehab,” a wearable device on a knee for a musculoskeletal training and healthcare, 10Minds for “Motion Pillow 2,” a memory foam pillow with airbags inside adjust inflating and deflating in response to the user’s head location and snoring patterns, and Hanyang University for “Pragrant,” an electronic deodorant that can sterilize bacteria and purify odors using plasma medicine technology.

The Innovation Awards Showcase Hall displayed products that received the CES Innovation Awards at CES 2020.

However, Korean companies’ excellent technologies fell short of expanding into the medical area. They stayed mostly in the wellness area because of strict domestic restrictions on telemedicine and the moving of medical data.

A case in point is Neofact’s smart rehab device, which can be purchased not only by medical institutions but individuals in the U.S. An American user can do rehab training at home, share the results with a doctor, and receive medical consultation through mobile video chats, which drew keen attention in the U.S.

However, such individual service is impossible in Korea, and the company sells the product to medical institutions only. This restriction made Neofact focus on the U.S. market instead of Korea.

FITT CEO Hong Seok-jae, who was from Samsung Electronics’ corporate startup incubation program C.LAB Outside, said he had thought about a service that calculates lactic acid production rate per second through a simple blood test to provide more appropriate health training for individuals. However, he could not do it because the Medical Service Act prohibits blood testing at any other site than medical institutions. Non-medical institution entities have limited options to offer healthcare services in Korea.

MedWand SOLUTIONS, a U.S. company, presented “MedWand,” a home medical device that checks electrocardiogram (ECG), heart rate, and respiratory rate for telemedicine. Although the device drew much attention at CES, it is just a pie in the sky for Korean consumers.

An industry executive said Korea would find it difficult to go against the global trends of promoting telemedicine with digital technologies and offering customized medical services with big data.

“Korea bans telemedicine, but telemedicine is a global trend. Korea will have no choice but to accept it soon,” an official at MedWand SOLUTIONS said.

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