As it’s name suggests, wearable technology is an umbrella term for digital devices you can wear. This often refers to the more innovative devices which are often underpinned by data or connected to other devices, such as virtual and augmented reality headsets and fitness tracking devices.
Last month I had the fantastic opportunity to attend the Wearable Technology Show 2016 in London. The two-day conference was an enlightening experience and a great chance to see and try out some the latest wearable devices and to discuss new ideas and opportunities with some of the people behind the tech.
Some of my key takeaways reflecting on the event are:
The Internet of Things and the Value of Data
Data is what underpins both the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable technology. It is how the technology can utilise and translate data that makes it worthwhile to the individual and drives its value. This is why I was unsurprised when I heard someone state that “data is the next oil.”
This is true in many ways. While valuable, by itself data is unrefined. This is why we need technology to break down and analyse the data in a way that means something to us. If this is done effectively, data holds almost limitless insights and understanding of ourselves and the world around us, allowing us to make choices that could have a positive impact on our health, or on the profitability of a business.
Fujitsu demonstrated how effective this can be with their ‘IoT Cows’ exhibition. It is common knowledge in agriculture that cows are more active when fertile and take more steps, however it can be difficult for farmers tell when the cows are on heat. Fujitsu attached their GyuHo devices to the cows, allowing farmers to monitor the cows’ activity, feeding the information back to the farmers’ smartphone. This data allows the farmers to see when the cows are more active enables a direct positive impact on rates of conception and milk production, ultimately improving the profitability of their business.
Overall, data could be the driver for many new and exciting opportunities for jobs, platforms, technology and the transformation of our business models as our industries continue to demand, and deliver insights.
Healthcare and Wellness
The products being exhibited at the Wearable Technology Show made it clear that there is a fundamental difference in medically certified healthcare wearables and wellness wearables.
Wellness devices can cover anything from Ōura, a ring which analyses your statistics to help you optimize your sleep, to fitness tracking devices like MyZone, which implements gamification by allowing users to challenge and compete with each other over social media, creating an interactive way of focusing on fitness targets. While these types of devices can benefit an individual’s health, they do not require medical approval and some approved fitness tracking devices have been proven to be 40% inaccurate! However, the market is still young and this is definitely a promising area to watch out for businesses focussing on the casual user.
In contrast, wearables that are to be used in a healthcare environment must go through a similarly stringent test and approval process to a medically approved drug. This means that these devices take significantly longer to appear on the market and often cost a lot more too. Regulatory requirements mean that these devices must be accurate – to be approved, the accuracy of the device is fundamental.
One device that stood out to me was Biovotion, a medically graded wristwatch-like device that monitors vital stats such as heart rate, blood oxygenation, skin temperature, skin blood perfusion and more. This can give a GP an informed and accurate view of their patient at a glance, they are therefore more aware of any changes in the patient’s health and can be more reactive to the situation.
The fact these devices need a good test environment puts Jersey in a valuable position. Our size and high level of connectivity between our healthcare services makes us ideal for a test bed environment, and we’ve already demonstrated our enthusiasm and strengths in this area with MedTech.je and the success of NHS approved product MediBooks. This is something I discussed with some of the exhibitors and hope might present some opportunities in the future.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Despite our VR dreams in the ‘80s, the technology at the time did not cut it. Modern technology however is making these dreams a reality in 2016. Personal VR headsets are now available for consumers to buy, and some of the C5 and MedTech.je team members who got to try out the Jurassic World simulator on the Samsung Gear VR headset, which I brought along to my team presentation following the trip, will understand just how far this tech has come.
What really got me excited though, was the opportunities for people to learn and educate themselves in a virtual environment. Dr Shafi Ahmed will soon show how VR tech can be used to provide real training to medical students across the globe by performing the world’s first live stream of surgery in 360 view on 14th April. This will be available to anyone with a smartphone or VR headset and is truly a game-changer in the way we conduct medical training.
If you would like to find out more about Wearable Tech, Virtual / Augmented Reality or the Internet of Things, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org