We have seen a trend of companies in the wearables space attacking both consumer and industrial/military use cases for their products and technologies. We’ve covered a few of them, including monitoring systems and energy generation, and several different approaches to mobile digital health. In our conversations with leading wearables’ companies, it has become clear that increasing amounts of red tape and unclear defense budget allocations make the military application of this technology quite risky. But that doesn’t mean the military itself isn’t developing its own wearables and applications. Take for example, the National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2), which is developing mobile applications that use wearable technology to bring effective mHealth to the military. T2 is an arm of the Department of Defense that develops solutions for psychological health and traumatic brain injury. It is funded with $21.9M of its parent The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury’s (DCOE) $168M defense budget allocation.
After suffering trauma on the battlefield, soldiers often find themselves feeling stigmatized upon return, needing treatment for various physical and mental ailments. Studies have shown that the social stigma attached to those seeking therapy is a very real barrier to optimizing outcomes for our soldiers. Enter, the BioZen app. BioZen (available for Andriod) helps people use free sensors to improve their health through the practice of biofeedback. The app can process information from many off the shelf sensors, including EEG, EMG, GSR, ECG, as well as sensors for respiratory rate and skin temperature. It is compatible with devices from Zephyr, NeuroSky, and others.
The aim of BioZen, is to provide military patients a way to receive treatment in their own homes, on their own time. By utilizing biofeedback data along with other therapies, the company aims to help patients gain control of their symptoms and live a healthier life. What this means in practice is that soldiers experiencing both physical and psychological trauma can, using a variety of off the shelf sensors and without needing anything else but their smartphone, track their physiological responses during the traumas, thus helping to better understand and of course, alter their behaviors to avoid them.
Looking forward, it is clear that mobile digital health will be a very important segment in the wearable technology space, be it with direct health applications and equipment, or in the area of accountable care. And while the inherent risks of depending on the military as a customer are very real, there certainly is a ripe proving ground for wearable products and services that might lead to leadership in more lucrative consumer digital health markets down the road. You can follow T2 on Twitter and Facebook and watch a video about BioZen here.