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Philips sees a future in healthcare

Aiming for iPod-esque market dominance

Philips hopes to dominate the market for electronic healthcare products in much the same way that Apple conquered the ears of consumers with its successful iPod portable music player.

With the entertainment segment of consumer electronics likely to remain a high-volume, low-margin business, Philips views healthcare gadgets, targeted largely at an ageing baby-boom generation, as a market with great potential, said Rudy Provoost, CEO of Philips' consumer electronics division, in a speech on Saturday at the IFA electronics show in Berlin.

"Globally, the population of people 60 and older is growing by 2 percent per year, faster than the population as a whole," Provoost said, citing a United Nations report. "The most developed nations already have a higher proportion of 60-plus citizens than children up to the age of 15."

As part of its Connect Care product development project, Philips is working on a variety of "body-driven" consumer electronics products that could help improve people's health and well-being.

Provoost showed a video of a woman with a small, white iPod-like device attached to her that was designed to monitor her health using a conductive skin response technology. The device, when placed near a special display, shows images of the woman's health status, making suggestions where corrections are needed and also sending alerts where emerging problems are detected. It can also be programmed to help the woman overcome sleeping problems.

But while Philips looks to healthcare to lift its profits, the company also hopes to squeeze more money out of consumers' pockets with innovative entertainment products.

Provoost pointed to the firm's Ambilight technology for reducing eye strain on flat-panel TV screens as an example of how to entertain consumers in a more "relaxing and exciting way". At the IFA show Philips, which introduced the world's first flat-panel TV a decade ago, showed a prototype 100in flat-screen TV with Ambilight.

As part of its Lifestyle Home project, the company is using consumer electronics as a platform to connect diverse technologies, such as electronic paper, gesture-sensitive smart skin surfaces, algorithms that create ambient mood lighting, remote controls and contactless purchase systems for secure in-home payment.

A video showed a women pointing a remote control at a movie on the TV and dragging the image over to a flat-panel in another corner and then to picture frames.

Provoost made a pitch for 'open innovation', calling on companies, universities and research institutes to combine knowledge, efforts and money to develop new consumer electronic products. A go-it-alone strategy in the 21st century, the Dutch CEO said, would be "outright suicidal".


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