Preview of Wearable Future at CES 2014: Shift to Healthcare and Medical Devices

Intel CEO with Edison computer; photo from The Telegraph

During a busy week filled with curved 4K televisions and presentation blunders, wearables stole the show during CES in Las Vegas. While many used the event to announce new fitness and lifestyle activity trackers, smart watches, and personal assistants, several companies announced wearable medical devices and healthcare applications.

These companies are positioning themselves to seize opportunities both as the wearables market crosses over from consumer to healthcare and as the need for new devices emerges. Motion Technology Partners’ David Stern has written in the past about areas ripe for innovation, and this topic continues to capture our imaginations. Accordingly, the developments from CES related to healthcare are exciting.

Intel debuted designs for several products as a part of its initiatives to accelerate innovation in wearables:

  • Its Smart Earbuds Reference Design includes an optical monitor to continuously track biometric and fitness information, which was developed with Valencell Inc. (PerformTek Precision Biometrics). This design shows how advances in biometric tracking, powered by optical sensors, will fuel innovation in devices.
  • Intel highlighted Edison, a SD card based computer powered by its Quark processor. The company showed a use of Edison with a next generation baby monitor, Mimo Baby.
  • It also demoed an always listening Bluetooth headset (Jarvis), a smart wireless charging bowl, and other initiatives.
  • For more information, read this News Fact Sheet from Intel.

This leadership in wearables innovation by Intel shows the many possibilities in devices and bright future for advanced activity tracking. Accordingly, there is a large market opportunity to adapt these devices to healthcare applications, tailoring devices for specific use cases and creating services based on new public policy standards.

Several other companies highlighted new wearable and activity tracking devices at CES, including:

  • iHealth Lab’s ambulatory blood pressure monitor, wireless ambulatory ECG, and wearable pulse oximeter
  • ithlete, a heart rate monitoring technology that tells users when to train and when to rest
  • Kolibree, a smart toothbrush that monitors brushing habits and helps users improve dental health
  • RevUp, a health management app that brings data from multiple platforms to unify tracking insights
  • Skulpt Aim, a body composition & muscle quality analyzer
  • New fitness and lifestyle trackers such as Basis 2014 Carbon Steel Edition Band, Garmin Vivofit, iFit Active, LG Lifeband Touch, Lumo Lift, Movea and Texas Instruments G-Series motion tracker, Polar V800, Sony Core, Wellograph’s Sapphire Wellness Watch, and others
  • And products previously featured on IAT, such as Bionym, Checklight from Reebok, Heapsylon, and more

There are several take-aways from CES for entrepreneurs looking to make applications and systems that will bring together the consumerized motion-tracking wearable products, Internet of Things trackers, and the next wave of devices. First, new advanced sensors and processors will enable wearable devices to collect more data in the near future, especially heart rate and pulse information. Devices like this will push wearable devices and enabled services from consumer to healthcare markets. There will be many opportunities in this market, especially for mental health and chronic conditions.

For healthcare applications and services, successful teams will need savvy in devices, design, and medicine to create value in addressing specific conditions. These new ventures will also need familiarity with public policy changes and medical validation processes in addition to the standard combination of entrepreneurial skills to effectively target opportunities. There are great opportunities and large markets to disrupt with more effective management of mental health, tracking treatment chronic conditions, and other areas of health care that will be powered by innovation in wearables.

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