Stephen Ewell, Executive Director, Consumer Technology Association (CTA) Foundation
Interviewed by Linda Sherman, Managing Editor, Boomer Tech Talk
Filmed at the American Society on Aging (ASA) annual Aging in America conference (AiA18) in San Francisco March 26, 2018
Steve Ewell spoke at the concurrent Boomer Business Summit on March 28, 2018
Learn about what CTA Foundation does and the trends they are following and supporting in accessible tech for older adults and disabilities. CTA produces the annual CES conference. Some specific products in the hearing and vision loss space are discussed.
Linda: This is Linda Sherman @LindaSherman @BoomerTechTalk [on Twitter], I am here at the American Society of Aging’s “Aging in America” conference and I am with Steve Ewell who is the Executive Director of CTA which I’m going to let him explain to you what that is.
Steve: Great well thank you; yes I’m with the Consumer Technology Association Foundation, which is the charitable foundation affiliated with CTA which is a tech association. They represent over 2,200 technology companies; everything from the big global brands that many people know, to a lot of small start-ups. And we started this foundation about six years ago as a way to give back to our communities, and specifically when we were looking around at what issues we should focus in on, we decided to focus in on aging and disability issues as two areas that technology can make a really significant difference for, but also areas that maybe don’t get as much attention as we felt they deserved.
So over the last five or six years, we’ve given out over three million dollars of support to different non-profit organizations across the U.S. to use technology to help older adults and people with disabilities.
Linda: And to remind people what CTA is; it used to be CEA which–
Steve: It was the Consumer Electronics Association for a long time actually when it first started it was the Radio Manufacturers Association. So it has morphed over the years but yes a couple years back we decided to, when we looked at the industry, we realized not only is it the hardware of consumer electronics but there’s so much more in the consumer technology space; so we changed our name to the Consumer Technology Association and then the show that CTA is probably best known for; CES, continues to be CES and that is kind of the global stage for innovation where we have technologies ranging from 3D printing to health and fitness to self-driving vehicles to the TVs and telephones and everything else that people see. It’s really across the global spectrum of technology.
Linda: And what was the final number on the number of people that you got at 2018’s CES?
Steve: You know at 2018, we’re still waiting on the audited numbers so we don’t have the final count yet we’re expecting it’ll be right around the hundred and eighty thousand people that I think is right around the same number as we had the year before.
Linda: It felt like a large number of people, it was a really good conference, thank you, I love going there every year. So I’m really glad to have everybody understand what the foundation is doing. It’s a great cause and I’m really glad you’re doing that. Can you give us some insight that you have gained from doing the foundation and being interested specifically in aging and disabilities and things that you’ve found for the aging population – tech that you think that our listeners should know about?
Steve: Absolutely there’s a wide range of different types of technologies that can be utilized in this space you know a lot of it is, you look at things like smart home technology that is really important for being able, for people to control their environment and really have a sense of what is going on as far as knowing who’s at the front door; being able to pull that up and see a picture without having to get up and go see the door, if you live in a dangerous environment or someplace where you don’t want to necessarily answer the phone it’s also something of just being able to control the lights, the locks, the thermostat, just being able to grant that control to the individuals is really important.
But it also can benefit the caregivers as well because now they can know if the thermostat is way off in one direction or the other – that might be a sign to check in. It’s not necessarily putting cameras over everyone and you know kind of the big brother state, but trying to figure out you know where is that privacy versus peace of mind level that can really benefit both older adults and their caregivers.
A lot of what we fund is technology education programs as well; we see that as really important, one just to allow seniors and people with disabilities to understand what technologies are out there and what can benefit them and then the other side of that is also working with the companies to really understand why it’s so important to focus on these markets; so we do a lot of work in that space. The other area that we see in the disability space as being really important is some of the different technologies that can benefit people who are losing their hearing, losing their vision, mobility you know that side, the disability side of our mission is separate from the aging side necessarily but there’s a lot of overlap between the two–
Linda: There’s so much overlap on vision and hearing.
Steve: Absolutely. So we see some of these technologies that are using augmented reality to help people who have vision loss to be able to help to read and use machine learning to read different types of things in their environment to actually, there’s a concierge service now that can help blind individuals as they’re walking down the street, give them directions using kind of a Google glass style glasses to be able to look out and then talk to them and inform them of oh you’re coming into a construction zone you know walk around this cone here; to being able to read the menu in the restaurant and items along those lines.
The other area that’s really exciting is for people who are losing their hearing you know, hearing aids have been around for a really long time–
Linda: And older people hate wearing them
Steve: Absolutely and that is one of the challenges; it’s both cost, it’s comfort, there’s a lot of issues there but what we’ve seen is the emergence of what we call personal sound amplification products or PSAP’s which are kind of low cost, they are not hearing aids, they don’t have the FDA clearance for that but what they’re looking at is being able to augment hearing for people who have very low to mild and moderate hearing loss at a very affordable rate where it can be two or three hundred dollars for both ears versus two or three thousand dollars per ear with a hearing aid. Last year bipartisan over-the-counter hearing aid legislation was passed and the FDA is now working on the rules.
So there’s such an amazing opportunity now for technology to address hearing loss and hopefully to have it be more consumer-friendly and have an option kind of like what we see with the glasses option of yes you go to the doctor’s and get your prescription glasses that are highly customized and that’s exactly; we’re not saying do away with the hearing aid space, that is always going to be very important part of this but then you also have the option with glasses of going down to the local pharmacy and picking up a pair of readers if your glasses break or if you just have very mild vision loss; that’s something that’s an affordable option, we think that there’s an opportunity to do that in the hearing space as well; so that’s a really exciting space for us.
Linda: Are you permitted to mention any brands?
Linda: -like for those hearing aids
Steve: Sure you know I can’t endorse any specific product; so but there are a wide variety of different– there’s a company called Nuheara with their IQbuds that has been doing some work in this space. There’s a company actually Doppler Labs had their Here One products, they actually unfortunately have just gone out of business but there’s a number of others that have been working in this space. A lot of big global brands are starting to pay attention to the different types of ear buds that could be used for augmented hearing. So it’s really exciting to see what’s emerging and then we even see things like Aftershokz is a company that, they’re rather than going the ear bud route, they have things that go actually over and in front of the ear and use bone conduction.
So essentially for people who have certain types of hearing loss, rather than projecting it into the ears, it goes through the bone and that can actually help people with certain types of hearing loss to be able to still hear. The blindness community also loves it because they’re able to use that and it doesn’t cover their ears so they’re still able to hear everything that’s going on around them while also being able to hear – whether its GPS instructions or just having a phone call or other things, they’re able to still know what’s going on around them, while also getting the information through the hearing device.
Linda: Oh excellent. I had seen that product at some time at CES but I didn’t realize that second use, that’s really important.
Steve: Well that’s kind of one of the really exciting stories for a company like Aftershocks and we’re seeing this more and more. When they created that technology, it really kind of came out of military use of being able to have soldiers be able to hear things without clogging their ears and they were really marketing this as something for marathon runners and people on bikes and other athletes. But yet when they brought it to market the blindness community, the hearing loss community suddenly embraced this technology and for them it was suddenly like oh well this is a great opportunity for us; lets learn more about this market.
And so they’ve really embraced the opportunity to do that, they still make this you know for athletes and for others that have an interest in it and the broader consumer market but yet they’ve also identified the accessibility market as being a really important piece for them as well so that’s something that we really look for is those stories of technology, not necessarily designing purely for accessibility are purely for aging; that’s an important piece to take into consideration but when you’re able to build that into general consumer technology, we see that is important because that brings the economies of scale and the affordability for a lot of these products to reach that broader market.
Linda: Oh that’s a very good point. So but for these different technology companies to hear about each other is obviously also very important and you told me that you created a list; there is no longer like a space for everybody to be in, that addresses accessibility but that you had made a list and that there might be a website link for that I don’t know if you know it right now but we can add it to the video description if you get it later do you have it?
Steve: Absolutely. It’s CES.tech/Accessibility and that is essentially, you know over the last few years we’ve built up the accessibility market; the way CES is structured, there’s different market places so there’s the health and fitness marketplace, there’s the auto motor marketplace and so on. We’ve created an accessibility marketplace, which has a few companies that are really focused specifically on the accessibility market. So companies like VFO which does blind or Braille readers and magnifiers, Facil’iti which makes accessible websites and other companies along those lines but what we found is so many different companies that do accessible technology were already in the show and they were already established in the gaming marketplace or established in the health and fitness marketplace or other areas of the show. So rather than trying to figure out how we move them all there; but quite frankly when we look at accessibility and when we look at aging, we don’t think it has to be a separate section; it really should be across the entire show.
So that’s where you know this year we decided to take a step back and rethink it a little bit and came up with; essentially we created this web page as part of the CES website. We also had a two-page document that we had in the press room at CES this year to be able to help share, here are some examples of not just where the accessibility marketplace is but where everything else is across the show so we could help tell some of those stories because there were such amazing products, we talked about some of the things like Nuheara, Aftershokz and companies like that but there was you know OrCam which had something that attaches to the glasses and helps read for people who have vision loss which was over in the health and fitness area or they may have been in the wearables section and then we actually had an accessible self-driving vehicle; we had worked with IBM and Local Motors a small automotive manufacturer that actually 3D prints their vehicles. And we had spent the last year going around to senior communities, going around to different disability organizations and really collecting ideas of what would the ideal situation or experience be for older adults and people with disabilities in an accessible self-driving vehicle.
So we collected a lot of those ideas and then had that on display right in the middle of the central hall, right as people walked into that grand lobby they had a chance to see AccessibleOlli so that was kind of a really exciting opportunity for us to highlight that and have it be front and foremost among some of the technologies at the show.
Linda: So when you’re planning your CES visit, these different tracks have a sub-domain you’re saying; so there’s slash accessibility, there’s slash other things right?
Steve: Well there is couple of different things; so on the show floor we divide up the show into a wide variety of different marketplaces; so yes it can be everything as I was saying from–
Linda: The website has sections–
Steve: Yes the website does have sections; yes absolutely so if you go on there its health and fitness, I believe actually sleep tracking has its own section …
Linda: Sleep was huge this year
Steve: It’s an important piece; I mean we spend a great deal of our life sleeping, so and it’s something that many of us who run around and don’t necessarily get enough sleep if we can help benefit and ensure that everyone is; that’s an important piece. So yes, if you go to the ces.tech website, there’s a menu there and in it, it lists all the different types of sub-pages that are focused on different subjects.
Linda: Got it. So don’t forget when you’re planning your CES 2019 trip, that you check out the accessibility section and the other sections of interest to you and I encourage all technology companies to see where you can cross link with accessibility and helping people in our aging communities and people with disabilities as well. I gave my Twitter handles at the beginning of this; I want you to give your foundation’s.
Steve: Absolutely. People can follow us on Twitter @CTAFoundation or they can go to CTAFoundation.tech, its dot T-E-C-H and that has all the information about our foundation and a lot of the work that we’re doing and I’d love to hear from people if there’s technologies that they see working well out there; that’s something that we want to be able to help highlight and you know we also hope to engage with both the advocacy communities the representatives of seniors and older adults and people with disabilities as well as working with companies that are interested in working in this space.
Linda: Wonderful. We’re very happy at Boomer Tech Talk to raise the awareness of your foundation and I’m so glad that you took the time to talk to us today. Thank you very much Steve.
Steve: Thank you for having me.
Planning Your Visit to CES 2019 to See Accessible Tech for Older Adults and Disabilities
Please note that a few changes were made to the CESTech website since Steve and I did this video interview. It is my promise to you that during the CES 2019 booth visit planning period for journalists and attendees, I will provide some updated information about the CESTech website as it relates to locating booths that are displaying accessible tech products for older adults and disabilities. I am not suggesting that we need to carve out these products into a separate floor section. There is so overlap in purpose these days. We just need a way to find the relevant booths and fit them into our CES visit plan.
If these items are check boxes for press self-identification, perhaps the press could receive some appropriately tweaked and directed pre-show emails.
Steve Ewell with Accessible Tech at CES
Steve Ewell video which was produced during CES. To see a larger version of the video, after hitting play, please click on the full screen symbol in the bottom right corner of the video.
Aging in America Conference (AiA18) Hosted by American Society on Aging March 2018 SF
I met Steve Ewell during an AiA18 technology session on the first day of the Aging in America Conference.
I have written a series of reports on the AiA Conference. Here are the links to date:
– Reducing Bullying Between Older Adults
– Prevention of Distressing and Harmful Resident-to-Resident Interactions in Dementia in Long-Term Care Homes
– NORC at the University of Chicago National Social, Health and Aging Project (NSHAP) Interview
What’s Next Boomer Business Summit Produced by Mary Furlong and Associates and Lori Bitter/The Business of Aging March 2018
CTA Foundation was a Silver sponsor of the Boomer Business Summit held concurrently with AiA18 on Wednesday, March 28. Steve was one of the judges for the start-up pitch session during Boomer Business Summit described here: “Back by popular demand, a select group of entrepreneurs will pitch investors and distribution partners for feedback and potential deals. The session will begin with Investors and partners discussing what they look for in partners and trends that will dominate the longevity market in the coming year. Prospective companies must have annual revenue greater than $1 million.”
Mary Furlong and Associates’ next big event is Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit – Investment, Impact, and Opportunity in the Longevity Marketplace June 21st in Santa Clara. There is also a pre-conference day on June 20th.
*The tripod in the making of photo is from Arkon Mounts, a consistent exhibitor at CES with great mounts and stands for mobile devices. I attached my iPhone backwards for the first video I did on March 26th. It still worked but you should be able to see the full screen when you are using the tripod.