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Tech for Change: At CES 2021, new devices and tech aim to help beat COVID-19

Thanks to several vaccines developed at mind-bending speed from our nation’s brightest scientists, there is at least a road map to the fight against COVID-19, which has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. But let’s be clear: It’s going to be a battle, and while the vaccine is rolled out and doctors and caregivers continue fighting, we must do everything we can to reduce the spread and limit the number of infections.

Fortunately, technology is there to help us. A variety of innovative companies and products coming to the CES 2021 show can help beat the novel coronavirus. Here’s a look at a few to keep your eyes on.

The BioButton by BioIntelliSense was named a CES Innovation Award Winner this year, and for good reason. The wearable device is unobtrusive, about the size of a coin, and it continuously tracks a variety of vital signs including temperature, respiratory rate, and heart rate at rest to monitor your health. This FDA-certified device is part of a novel COVID-19 screening kit, along with the BioMobile app, that the company says are more reliable than the spot checks currently at use in stores, restaurants, and ERs around the country.

Keeping tabs on yourself is one thing, but monitoring customers is another. Filling the gap is Misty Robotics, which will show off a cute temperature screening robot. Her name is Misty II, she’s clever and personable, the company claims, and most importantly, she means a key employee doesn’t need to drop everything to keep the staff safe.

Meanwhile, sanitization products and health technology are set to be a hot topic at this year’s CES and beyond. Some of the biggest PC makers in the world have leaned into it, including Acer, which recently unveiled a line of antimicrobial laptops designed to prevent the spread of disease. “The first thing that came to our minds was antimicrobial, and how do we apply this technology to our products as much and as widely as possible?” Jason Chen, global CEO of Acer, recently told us.

But Acer’s hardly alone. Picture this scenario: You mask up, shop for groceries, and return to your car. Sure, you might use hand sanitizer, but what about your phone? Weren’t you holding it in the store? Is it covered in germs? Utilimedic, a division of car-tech company Namsung America, will be at CES to showcase the UV8LED, an in-car phone sanitizer with wired and wireless charging that was named a CES 2021 Innovation Awards Honoree. It provides 360-degree, ultra-fast UV-C light sanitization that eliminates up to 99.9% of germs, viruses, and harmful bacteria in just five minutes.

Mobility giant Targus is announcing products that actively protect against bacteria growth too. Of note: The 2Office Antimicrobial Backpack, a laptop case that features an antimicrobial coating on key touchpoints to protect against bacteria growth on contact. Targus is also announcing a UV-C LED Disinfection Light that utilizes UV-C lighting to eliminate 99.9% of pathogens inside the active disinfection area. Look for antimicrobial privacy screens, mice, and keyboards later this spring.

And of course, there are the ubiquitous masks. At CES 2021, anticipate seeing a wealth of companies selling masks and integrating tech in all sorts of forms. One stand out is Razer, which has made waves for several years at CES with intriguing prototype products and concepts. Last year, the company showed off the Kishi, a control device that essentially turns your iOS or Android device into a Nintendo Switch. This year, Razer shows up with the Project Hazel Smart Mask, intended to help improve the convenience of daily mask wear while overcoming common social interaction challenges. It provides effective N95 protection from bacteria and viruses while eliminating the waste of reusable masks with rechargeable and replaceable filters — which honestly feels like table stakes at this point. Upping the game, Razer says the mask combines transparent protection mated with technology to improve vocal clarity with a built-in mic and amplifier. Now we’re cooking!

Taken together, this tech might be just the dose of prevention we all need in 2021.

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