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CES 2014: Tech makers were asleep at the wheel on innovation

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As the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show winds to a close Friday in Las Vegas, The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) says consumer interest in purchasing dedicated wearable fitness devices in the next 12 months quadrupled to 13 percent in 2013, from just three percent in 2012.

According to the CEA, this is the largest year-over-year increase for any category of fitness device.

Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show to generate a wave of headlines this week pertaining to mHealth devices, fitness trackers, and other wearable technologies designed for individuals hoping to leverage modern mobile innovations for the good of their mental and physical health.

At CES 2014, we witnessed the teasing or unveiling of a host of devices that could have profound implications for mHealth, telemedicine, and healthcare marketing in the digital age. But in the increasingly important category of mobile tech solutions for individuals suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders or difficulties, CES 2014 was nothing less than an unmitigated dud.

"Devices that track and monitor sleep patterns were plentiful," tech news reporter Ian Hayes told Examiner on Friday. "But there was essentially nothing new introduced in this space. And that’s really disappointing, I think."

From tracking fitness activity and calorie intake, to monitoring sleep patterns and even blood pressure, there are countless health apps, wearable devices, and other mobile resources now available that can do all of the above and then some. But making time to get healthy with the assistance of mobile tech also requires making time to manage all of these independent and usually incompatible platforms.

Compounding the frustration of many mobile users eager to enjoy technologies that more easily integrate between or among platforms is the tremendous progress of sleep-assisting technologies that have entered the market in recent months.

Last year, as a key example, a new mobile sleep app called Sleep Genius launched on iOS and Android. Almost instantly, this neuroscience-based resource raised the bar for all other apps in the category not only in response to the weight of its scientific pedigree, but the fact that countless consumers - consumers who can be brutal with their app reviews - chose to lavish extensive praise upon Sleep Genius because of its apparent effectiveness.

Here is a technology that is backed by decades of research from leading experts in neuroscience, sleep, and music that actually delivers something to help users get to sleep faster and benefit from more quality sleep. But consumers are now clamoring for apps like Sleep Genius to be accessible through or integrated into the leading wearable technologies of this New Year.

Something as simple as a marriage between a single app like Sleep Genius with hardware from Fitbit, Nike, or Jawbone would instantly inspire the mobile masses to more frequently use, trust, and depend upon their respective products. In the process, avid mobile users frustrated by the need to navigate a sea of separate fitness devices and apps would finally get the comprehensive platforms desired.

Although CES failed to wow fitness-conscious insomniacs this year with innovative and groundbreaking announcements and partnerships, Hayes says it remains promising just how quickly the sophistication of mHealth apps is advancing.

"I would be more concerned if we weren't seeing breakthroughs in app technology," he says. "There are exciting things going on there. We just need everyone to play together nicely and formulate joint solutions that, individually, these hardware and app makers could never create independently of one another."

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