As humans run toward a possible future of increasingly networked (and healthier) cyborgs, several companies now offer wearable devices for health monitoring.
BodyMedia, of Pittsburg, markets a body monitoring system that collects physiological data via three sensors beneath an armband. Measuring motion, skin temperature and the rate at which heat dissipates from the body, the system gathers 5,000 data points per minute to yield insight into sleep quality, metabolism and calories burned.
Users upload their data for further analysis against pre-set goals and body parameters, with helpful graphics showing how the user may (or may not) be meeting fitness goals. Similar to mobile apps such as “RunKeeper,” the system allows users to socialize the experience, too, getting kudos and encouragement from others via Twitter and similar platforms.
“That manifests itself into accuracy, personalization and more of a health orientation,” says Christine robins, the company’s CEO. “We are more than an activity tracker or fitness device; we are actually a health management tool.”
With smartphones or at specialized stations located at retail pharmacies, users may update their health status with information about their weight, body mass index, pulse and height, even uploading photos of their meals for a caloric estimate. Like at the arcade, users may also compete for high scores or, like today’s online gaming, work together to improve collective scores.
But as with many such concepts, the novelty might wear off faster than a New Year’s resolution to hit the gym.
“The challenge is establishing what people should do with [this large volume of new health data],” says Sarah Rotman Epps, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. “A lot of consumers don’t think health is their responsibility and that it’s in the realm of their doctor. For some companies, to sell a device and track health is not resonating with people.”
And while the idea of elderly consumers comparing blood pressure “scores” might sound risible to some, analysts say the overall market is growing fast. Data from “Wireless Opportunities in Health and Wellness Monitoring-2012 Edition,” shows the market for wireless self-monitoring health devices-whether wearable or not-would increase dramatically in the next few years within the telemedicine marketplace. The proportion of wireless devices used in telemedicine would increase from 5 percent in 2011 to 20 percent by 2016, according to the study.
Thomas J. Handler, research director for the study, says the market is potentially huge, as Information Week reports. “”I think that if we have the capability to do self-monitoring, we potentially need to move toward intelligent self-monitoring–give me the doc in my smart phone that tells me based on whatever I just recorded what do I do with it. I’m not sure how effective we are going to be at that side of it,” Handler says.
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