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OnKol captures your loved ones' health data so you don't have to

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Distance can sour even the fondest familial relationships, and they're even trickier to sustain when health issues are involved. That's where a small, Midwestern hardware startup called OnKol comes in -- it's making a handsome hub for all the digital health data you can squeeze out of compatible health monitors (a decent chunk of which have cables that terminate in USB jacks). It'll also play nice with health devices that support Bluetooth connections, though those can be a little tougher to come by. The end result? A sort of one-stop shop to help you keep tabs on loved ones who could use some remote (but caring!) eyes.

Gallery: Up close with the OnKol health hub | 7 Photos

All of that sweet, sweet info gets funneled into an online dashboard that lets you switch between hard data (think: heart rate, weight, oxygen saturation, etc.) and schedules/reminders to help grandma stay on target. What's that? Pop-pop doesn't have WiFi? That's cool: The OnKol has a cellular radio to get all that info where it needs to go. In fact, communication is one of OnKol's raisons d'être since just about every action can trigger a text or email alert for family members and caretakers. Oh, and that big ol' button up top? Mash it and the OnKol leaps into emergency mode, firing off messages to preset contacts and pinging emergency services if it isn't shut off quickly enough.

Throw in voice prompts and reminders piped through a surprisingly beefy set of internal speakers and you've a bit of home hardware that's as helpful as it is handsome. It's almost like they want to be the IKEA of home health monitoring, a comparison that founder Marc Cayle doesn't mind so much. After all, so much of this stuff is sterile and gray and utterly inhuman -- even the addition of some faux wood grain helps make the OnKol feel friendlier than some of its rivals do. With gadgets like this, it's really the little things that matter, and it's a little heartening to see a crew of feisty little guys taking on a cadre of ginormous health incumbents right here on the show floor.

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