Is wearable tech for healthcare going mainstream?
There's no doubt that mobile technology has already arrived. But if you want to know what's on the next crest of the wave, think wearable technology -- biosensors and wearable devices which track key vital statistics.
Wearable technologies are creeping into everyday life, be they in a watch, jewelry or even on clothing, says Frances Dare, managing director of Accenture Connected Health Services.
In the future, Dare says, the line between wearable medical devices like glucometers and sensor-laden health devices will blur. "The patient may be able to e-mail data from the wearable device to the doctor if they have a question," Dare says.
In the meantime, there are some biosensor-laden and wearable technologies available now or about to hit the market which are very intriguing. Here are some examples of what's coming:
The Virgin Pulse Max
Virgin Pulse Max is a device designed to help people track their health. Wearable at the hip, neck, and wrist, it goes beyond standard steps and distance trackers by personalizing the experience with tailored messages based on a user's goals. It also offers "bump challenges" wherein users can bump a friend or colleague's device to automatically initiate a "most steps until midnight" challenge. Also, the Max syncs with the Virgin Pulse Mobile app via Bluetooth. This definitely isn't your mom's pedometer.
Previously launched as a fitness tracker, Sensoria is being relaunched as a tool to help diabetic foot complications and provide a system to enhance prosthetics. Powered by textile sensors and removable Bluetooth-enabled devices, the company offers Sensoria T-Shirt and Bra, as well as Sensoria Socks. The t-shirt and bra give users real-time tracking of key vital signs like heart rate and breathing through an electrocardiogram signal submitted through the textile sensors. And get this: Sensoria wearables also track how much sleep a person gets and how restful it was.
For those not already familiar with the Google Glass project, it's a wearable device that looks like a pair of eyeglasses and is worn the same way. The hardware on Google Glass includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, cameras and even voice activation commands. While it will be useful in a variety of situations, medical IT folks are particularly excited about the Glass, as it allows clinicians to live stream information to colleagues in countless ways and access health IT systems. Right now Google Glass is expensive and experimental, but expect to see it emerge over the next couple of years.
If consumers want a wearable fitness tracker with style and cache, you can't beat Shine, an elegant device about the size of a quarter which has already one a slew of design awards for the sleekness of its look and feel. What's cool about Shine, aside from the "oh isn't that pretty" factor, is that it manages to get key health tracking job done, including both activity and sleep quality. The company clearly intends to do its own thing -- it's called Misfit -- and by combining beauty and functionality, it's off to a great start. After having snagged almost $23 million in venture capital to date, it has the fuel to get there.
Connected Electric Toothbrush
Here's a neat gadget, in an area I've never seen before. A French company named Kolibree claims to have invented the first "smart" connected electric toothbrush. The brush uses sensors to analyze your tooth brushing habits then beams the results via Bluetooth to your smart phone, where a related app displays the results, critiquing whether you brushed long enough and whether you reached the hard to reach parts of your teeth and gums. The app works with several toothbrushes if needed, so entire family can work together on improving their dental habits. And in a move that should be of particular interest to the kids, the app awards "badges" as users' toothbrushing habits improve.