Trendspotting: What CES Reveals About the Future of Medtech Wearables
Product Creation Studio is pleased to bring you exclusive, on-going content by Heather Thompson, a senior editor for Medical Design & Outsourcing and former editor-in-chief of MD+DI magazine. With 15 years of experience covering medical technologies and FDA regulations, Heather specializes in delivering the latest trends and news in the medical device industry.
At CES 2018, the medtech wearables on display revealed the categories that investors and entrepreneurs believe are poised for immediate success. These technologies are not all winners. In fact, one thing we noted is that there should be a healthy buyer beware ethos at play, particularly for products that are backed by very little scientific research.
This article is not intended to endorse any technology, but to show that wearable products are beginning to fit pretty comfortably into five key categories:
Hearing aids are classic examples of wearable technology, but the technologies have advanced, with connections to Bluetooth, and reachable batteries. They are also taking a role of patient impact.
ReSound showcased a handful of hearing loss solutions. The company was the first to deliver 2.4GHz technology in hearing aids for direct connectivity and produces made-for-iPhone hearing aids in addition to more traditional hearing options. Its digital hearing aids can be connected through Bluetooth to be controlled through a smartphone, allowing users to stream audio from a smartphone or tablet directly to the hearing aid.
Oticon displayed it’s rechargeable Opn hearing aid and the Dynamo for severe to profound hearing loss. The company also presented its award-winning app HearingFitness, designed to measure the impact of someone’s hearing on their health. The app recently won a CES Innovation Award in the software and mobile apps category. HealthFitness gives advice and encouragement to help users hear better and stay healthy.
2. Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy
Wearable developers are tackling various aspects of rehabilitation including helping patients recover from stroke, mend after surgery, and reach healthy weight levels.
Gamification company, NEOFECT exhibited it’s latest robotic glove, intended to help patients with spinal cord injuries who have lost hand function to regain range of motion. The NeoMano, a wearable robotic glove, will also launch on Kickstarter in the early half of 2018. Essentially an artificial hand, NeoMano is a soft, lightweight glove that moves wearers’ fingers so they can grip and manipulate objects like a glass of water or a door knob.
Neurovalens, a neuroscience-based company, presented Modius wearable headband. The headband helps users achieve the level of activity they desire. Modius delivers a small electrical pulse to non-invasively activate the vestibular system that has been shown to reduce body fat in animal studies. In small human studies, vestibular stimulation was found in six fasted participants to increase the secretion of the hormones insulin and leptin, while simultaneously decreasing appetite. More than 70% of its users have lost between 12 and 15 pounds in an eight-week period.
3. At Home/On-the-Go Biometrics Monitoring
This year, we saw traditional blood pressure cuffs that can be used at home as well as body monitoring underwear.
iHealth Labs designs and creates user-friendly healthcare products for consumers. The company delivers what it says are easy-to-use solutions that allow users to improve lifestyles by sharing vitals instantly from smartphone. At CES this year, iHealth Labs focused on a variety of biometrics products including a blood pressure monitor, a body composition scale, glucometers and a pulse oximeter.
Myant developed sensor-filled clothing and underwear that monitors vital signs like heart rate, breathing rate and temperature. The company shared the clothing line and its new wireless charging at CES this year. Myant will use Energous’s wireless charging to power its “smart” underwear. The idea behind the charging method is wireless charging that uses radio signals in a room to charge electronics. Currently, the technology isn’t strong enough to charge a laptop, but it can keep a smartphone charged up while in the room. The charging method is FCC certified.
4. Stress Relief and Sleep
The wearable market is exploring better options to monitor the way we sleep and to provide a deeper understanding of the sleep patterns that make for healthy rest.
Royal Philips announced the launch of SmartSleep, a clinically proven wearable solution for consumers to improve deep sleep quality for people who do not get enough sleep. Philips claims that, unlike other sleep trackers that merely monitor a user’s sleep pattern, SmartSleep uses two small sensors that detect periods of slow wave sleep and intervene with clinically proven technology to boost it in real time. Philips’ proprietary advanced sleep analysis algorithms, developed in collaboration with leading sleep experts and neurologists, produce customized audio tones that enhance the depth and duration of slow wave sleep. An accompanying app logs sleep improvement over time and provides tips and advice on how to get the best possible night's sleep.
NuCalm exhibited a portfolio of relaxation and recovery technologies at CES. NuCalm’s ReNu product integrates NuCalm’s four-part system into a wearable visor that provides microcurrent stimulation and neuroacoustic software. Consumers can use any smart device or headphone, along with various supplements and creams to, as the manufacturer claims, control stress, sleep, metabolism, and more vital bodily functions.
Oura Health Ltd. has developed a ring designed to help users get more restful, healthy sleep. It is designed to be worn as a fashion accessory around the clock. The ring features BLE connectivity and seamlessly syncs with Oura’s app and Cloud. Data is stored offline for up to six weeks. This is the second generation of the ring which provides guidance on how to align with your circadian rhythm, optimal bedtimes, naps and restful moments, long-term trends, and personalized feedback.
5. Emergency alert services
Today’s alert systems allow senior independence, but little in the way of aesthetics or additional functionality. The next-gen products aim to improve these emergency alert systems in both looks and expanded security options.
Medical Guardian introduced the Freedom Guardian, a wearable technology designed to challenge industry stereotypes and revolutionize how older Americans age in place – or on the go. The Freedom Guardian is a discrete, customizable watch designed to blend in while providing round the clock monitoring, support and connectivity. The company noted that medical alert systems have low penetration due to a negative stigma associated with traditional systems, that are bulky and offer little more than a “push button” functionality. Medical Guardian believes that when customers don't need to use that single feature in a few months’ time, they believe they no longer need it and opt to go without its potentially life-saving protection. The Freedom Guardian is designed to provide value on a daily basis in order to increase the number of older adults with access to emergency help wherever they go.
Reemo aims to deliver individualized, proactive care solutions to more seniors. The Reemo Health and Safety Platform is designed to promote patient health and senior independence by supporting day-to-day health and safety through customized smartwatches that track users’ activity levels. That data is then sent to Reemo Health, which translates the data into actionable insights, as well as delivering valuable health and wellness information to family and professional caregivers for improved care. Reemo also includes security provider monitoring services through a partnership with ADT. When a call comes in ADT operators receive the wearer’s name, GPS location and vital stats to provide personalized help.
While the above technologies are by no means a complete look at the wearable solutions debuted at CES, these solutions do illustrate key trends we see emerging to solidify the use cases for wearables. Product Creation Studio has extensive experience designing wearable technology like Motus Baseball, a device that helps prevent injury and improve performance of athletes. As with any new technology, wearables must make a valuable difference to the user to be successful. The areas outlined above have gained a lot of traction in the industry already, and continue to show a lot of promise for future innovation.