“Wearables” has been a buzzword in the IoT (Internet of Things) space for quite some time now, but there are some new words—such as hearables, ingestibles, and embeddables—that are changing the idea that on-person devices have to worn in the traditional sense of the word. The purpose of wearables and their derivatives is also evolving. Wearable devices capable of measuring a person’s biometrics, for instance, are bringing these devices more firmly into the realm of medical monitoring and preventative healthcare.
New scientific research from Stanford University, www.stanford.edu, delves into the usefulness of portable biosensors in monitoring human physiological changes, as well as their role in managing health and diagnosing and analyzing diseases. The research, which was published in January in the scientific journal PLOS Biology, http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology, recorded more than 250,000 daily measurements for up to 43 individuals.
The scientists combined this biosensor information with other medical measurements and made a couple of observations. First, the study says wearable devices helped identify early signs of Lyme disease and inflammatory responses. Based on this observation, scientists then developed a computational algorithm for personalized disease detection using wearable biosensors. Second, wearables also helped distinguish physiological differences between insulin-sensitive and insulin-resistant individuals. With more research, the report suggests these devices may one day be used to detect an individual’s risk for type-2 diabetes.
Stanford’s research ultimately supports the idea that the data wearable biometric sensors provide can be physiologically meaningful and actionable. Many in the industry already believe this is true, even if they don’t have an academic research study sitting in front of them to prove it. The relevance and actionability of wearable data in different contexts is one reason the market is continuously forecasted to grow.
The latest prediction from Research and Markets, www.researchandmarkets.com, for instance, suggests the global market for smart wearables will exceed $30 billion by 2020. Alongside these devices’ growing viability as health devices, the upward trajectory will also be due to wearables’ popularity among consumers and decreasing prices for the devices themselves.
One interesting segment of the wearables space, hearables, refers to wireless headphones or ear buds that have the added benefit of biometric sensors and/or connectivity, such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or cellular. For instance, over-the-ear headphones may offer a voice-controlled mobile assistant that’s independent from a smartphone, or ear buds may track the wearer’s activity and physiological signals while also offering wireless music capabilities.
Vinci, http://en.vinci.im, is one example of a hearable device funded on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo, www.indiegogo.com, that leverages AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning, biometric and other sensors, and Wi-Fi/3G connectivity to learn a person’s music preferences in certain situations, perform tasks guided by the wearer’s voice commands, provide voice-guided navigation, and more. With Apple’s, www.apple.com, announcement of AirPods, there’s no doubt this space will become an increasingly competitive and innovative slice of the greater wearables sector. As biometric wearables simultaneously become more proven, accepted, and desired, their use cases will expand and multiply, especially in the realm of preventative healthcare.