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At CES, A Tractor And A Patient Stethoscope Point To Digital Health Future

By MICHAEL MILLENSON

A Deere tractor developed in Moline, Illinois and a stethoscope-for-patients from Singapore pointed to the future of digital health at CES 2023, the Consumer Technology Association gathering that’s become a global innovation hub.

The tractor appeared on a large video screen during the opening keynote by Deere & Company chief executive officer John May. The industrial company exec clearly relished the chance to trumpet the way Deere had turned tractors into high-tech tools to optimize farmers’ outcomes ­– an accomplishment inspiring envy among medical information mavens hoping to similarly transform patients’ outcomes.

“The John Deere presentation was one of the best technological presentations I have ever seen,” enthused ResMed chief medical officer Dr. Carlos Nunez at a later panel. Nunez pointedly noted that “you think health care would be difficult,” yet here Deere had revolutionized a centuries-old, rural, agrarian, manual profession.

Deere’s “smart machines” incorporate computer vision, soil moisture sensing, GPS with precise signal correction, machine learning and cloud computing, all of which enable farmers to plant corn, cotton and other crops “with precision beyond human capacity.” Farmers can track the tractor’s data collection with their smartphone and make real-time adjustments. In health care terms, that all adds up to personalized, evidence-based farming.

The technology gap between physicians and farmers is actually wider than May let on.

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