Tech for fighting COVID is a big focus at CES this year. But buyer beware
CES 2022, the annual tech convention in Las Vegas, is no stranger to COVID-19. This year, the number of attendees and exhibitors at the event fell significantly due to worries about the Omicron variant.
But even before the latest outbreak, COVID-19 was set to be among the show’s centerpieces after organizers upgraded the broader health tech product exhibits from ancillary space in the Venetian Hotel to the main hub at the Las Vegas Convention Center. And while many of the health tech products focus on nonviral health issues, such as blood pressure, heart rate monitoring, and sleep tracking, a significant number of companies are showing off new products to combat COVID.
Few, if any, have been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration—and some are still in the early stages. In other words, the devices may not actually work as advertised. But they do underline how startups and established companies are hoping to fight the virus, or at least profit from the cottage industry it has created.
Detection and prevention of COVID are the chief targets, but a few of the products focus on eradication. Here are some them.
COVID is an airborne virus, so one school of thought is to kill it while it’s in the air. Serenio is a 10-pound, 10-inch-long device that passes an electrical current through an alloy composed of 27 metals. Negatively charged electrons are supposed to bind to the virus’s positively charged spike protein, neutralizing it. Serenio’s creators say their testing shows it to be more than 95% effective in neutralizing the COVID virus (as well as others). The FDA hasn’t reviewed the technology, but it can be sold publicly (though no pricing information was available). That’s due to the FDA’s Enforcement Discretion Policy, meaning even if a device meets the definition of medical equipment, the agency can choose to not enforce requirements because it determines the risk to patients is low.
To detect COVID, this digital biosensor test strip uses graphene, a one-atom-thick layer of carbon that is said to make for faster DNA testing. Take a nasal or saliva swab, put it on the device’s sensor, and it will digitize biochemical signals from the virus directly onto the device’s chip. Within five minutes, the company says, it delivers results to an app on your phone, along with a time-stamped, encrypted RFID tag that records how recent the results are. (The consumer-focused device comes in two parts: the disposable test sensor and the permanent pass, which analyzes and sends the results to your phone.) The results can be read and interpreted by third parties that require them, but it will not share your personal information. The company received an Innovation Award at this year’s CES.
Demand for ultraviolet light sanitizers has risen for the past year due to COVID fears, and this mobile version, which sells for $130, was created by a surgeon who claims it’s 99.9% effective at killing germs, viruses (including the), and bacteria on surfaces. The compact flashlight-like device is easily attached to a mobile phone and works with an app to use your phone’s camera and A.I. to show when a surface is clean or dirty. The device could be especially handy when you eat out or are in a public area where you’re unsure about when your immediate environment was most recently sanitized. Its makers say a quick cleaning can be done in seconds by shining the light over the surface—and a complete cleaning takes less than a minute. Disclaimer: UV light does not kill COVID in already infected humans.
Valeo vital sign detector
Valeo is largely known for its products in the automotive and mobility space, but at this year’s CES it has two COVID-related products: a UV purifier and a mobile testing station that is designed for public spaces, including airports and trade shows. That latter system studies a person’s vital signs (the company didn’t clarify exactly how) to evaluate any health risks, and assesses whether that individual likely has COVID. It’s certainly not a final indicator, as no specific coronavirus test is taken. But it could help identify people who may be currently infected and refer them to take a rapid test. No cost was given.
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