Ok, I admit it, I am a junkie. Not your typical garden variety Generation Baby Boomers junkie, but rather a Gen Z junkie. I am addicted to wearables and dressables (e-clothes) – those non-wired “attachments” that lets one know everything that we can know (up to now) about ones health – in other words I want to have, in my own hands, my own bio (health)-metrics. My obsession with biometrics started around 7 years ago when I was told that I weighed 1/10 of a ton (as per my brother). After a massive change in my attitude to health and wellness, I lost 40kg (88 pounds) and started working out. Starting to walk on the treadmill for about 1 min I slowly progressed to now running for 90 minutes every second day. At the age of 50, instead of spending my birthday scuba diving in the Maldives with my loved ones, I found myself in a hospital bed having a stent inserted after a heart attack. There were no signs, I was fit, did not smoke, was eating healthily, I had cut down on my meat and caffeine intake, but genetics played is true to life role. This was a rather non-Zen experience and a serious wake up call.
As a result of these “anomalies” came my interest with biometrics, e-medical tools, and personalized health statistics. I had already worked in the medical device industry for long over a decade, so medical technology was an interest of mine. My mania for biometrics started off with the use of excel sheets but slowly, with the advent of personalized (or individualized) biometrics and technology, I moved over to web based and “new generation” wearables. Over the years I have owned a plethora of devices from the wrist-based tracking software, to shoes with electronic chips, home body temperature measurements and personalized blood pressure measurements. To quote my physician (a lovely lady though) “you are neurotic.” I might be, but I am happy to learn that there are millions like me out there. Wearable adoption in the USA is on a rise with a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of close to 25%, according to a BI Intelligence Report, with other countries closing in at a fast rate. According to the Huffington Post, the number of wearable devices shipped in the USA to consumers is expected to reach 130 million by 2018.” A recent report by Frost & Sullivan found that the global healthcare wearable devices market earned $5.1 billion in 2015 and estimated that revenues would reach $18.9 billion in 2020 – demonstrating a growth of 270% in 5 years.
The main questions that have been on my mind were where are we going with all this technology? Are we “overdoing” it with all these smart watches and activity monitors? And finally, what do I do with all this information – is it information over-kill or is it information that we can utilize to manage our health and wellness and take control of our life? Finally, after years of sitting on the sidelines, I quit a very successful company to join a start-up with an incredible breakthrough “dressable” technology in order that I can help shape the future (I will discuss this in a later article).
My interest started with the run of the mill and mundane wrist-based technology that monitored heart rate, steps, and other basic health statistics. I started off with the Fitbit Surge, then moved over to the Microsoft Band 1 and 2, Mio Fuse, Garmin Forerunner, Withings Pulse, and others. I was unhappy with their accuracy (when I compared it with my Polar H7 chest heart rate monitor and ECG), waterproofness and very poor battery life. A caveat here with regards the accuracy debate: all people are different and in many cases the wrist is not the ultimate area to receive the most accurate data. There are many variables that can affect the results; skin color and pigmentation, body secretions, the amount of body hair, obesity and others. For me, the device that suited me most was the Apple Watch 2 (even though I do not approve or like the battery life). So the question remains, can we get past the “watch” or incorporate it as a signal “jumper” while using other skin or body based technologies.
So where are we going with health technology wearables (outside the sport arena)? While the market is only in its infancy, its future is bright and the interest incredible. What are we looking for from the new start-ups that are mushrooming all over the world? What other biometric signals do we want, on a personalized level to make our e-life more stable? Wearable sensors (in opposition to wrist-based technology) are the latest trend in e-digital research and is the investigative basis of many start-ups and at many academic institutions. The research areas include many cardiovascular endpoints, asthma, skeletal pain, e-contact lenses, digital pills, glucose measurement and much more.
While medical start-ups are bringing to market new technologies to help in reducing patient presence at hospitals and clinics, we need to foster a culture of home e-health where by using technology, we are able to manage our personal health without using established medical service. This is important for both the patient/consumer (as they are not infected from other diseases floating around the hospital and clinic as really sick people are hanging around there) and the health provider (as they are saving money in non-admittance of patients and wasted physician time). From a personal perspective, what I am looking for is a way to give me control to manage my own biometrics in the easiest manner without being “tied down” to definitive geographical locale (doctor’s office, hospital, bed or home) or having uncomfortable or unnatural paraphernalia connected to my body.
*For the sake of disclosures, I own (and use) today an Apple 2 Watch; Withings Wireless BP Monitor; Polar HR Monitor; Under Armour; Adidas_1 Smart Ride Running Shoes. In the field of Apps, I use the Apple Health (I think the best App around); Myfitnesspall; Under Armour Record; Sleep++; Polar Beat.