All Posts in wearables

August 19, 2014 - Comments Off on Could the iWatch Revolutionize Medical Research?

Could the iWatch Revolutionize Medical Research?

“Talkback Tuesdays” is an original weekly installment where a team member of The Mechanism is asked one question pertaining to digital design, inspiration, and experience. The Q&A will be featured here on The Mechanism Blog as well as on The Mechanism’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, every Tuesday. Feel free to offer up your 2¢ in the comments.

George Brassey, The Mechanism’s lead developer, discusses the great potential smart watches can have in revolutionizing medical research and healthcare management. It seems like only a matter of time!

What new piece of tech are you most excited about hitting shelves?

I'm excited to see what sensors Apple will introduce with the iWatch. I'm hoping they announce a watch with an array of sensors which might revolutionize health care research. Last year there was a huge amount of media buzz around the wearable space, with nothing appearing. This year the rumor mill is turning again and it sounds like Apple will finally announce an iWatch next month to be released later this year/early next year. Why am I interested? Last year I didn't like the idea of the wearable. The potential uses didn't interest me. I already have a phone, tablet and laptop. I don't need yet another screen. Especially considering how limited the functionality will be on such a small device. This year, however, I've been hearing about the sensors that will be included.

I'm a migraine sufferer. From time to time, without warning, I get massive blind spots in my field of vision, followed by debilitating headaches. Research on migraines has been inconclusive. The Mayo Clinic lists: hormones, foods, food additives, drinks, stress, sensory stimuli, changes in wake-sleep pattern, physical factors, changes in the environment, and medications; as potential causes. That's a long list with very little practical information as to how to prevent a migraine. I will be interested to see what could be learned by analyzing various health markers preceding migraines.

Depending on how Apple's new Healthkit SDK deals with privacy, the platform could standardize the sharing of medical records. Currently, there is very little access to medical data for researchers. Fears of records getting into the wrong hands means that acquiring data for research often requires a new study, even if a similar study has been done before. This involves, raising money, finding volunteers and conducting the study which may take months, even years. Most health information is under lock and key. The proliferation of devices to passively record a wealth of data could provide easy access for life saving research.

March 21, 2014 - Comments Off on Marketing the Meme

Marketing the Meme

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A marketing revolution occurs every time a meme is discovered.

If you blinked, you may have missed that for the moment, it's all about health-related wearables. Generation X not only wants to, but firmly believes that we can live forever. Ask Ray Kurzweil, an elder statesman of futurism and author of The Age of Spiritual Machines, and The Singularity is Near, with the help of our machine overlords and a nice regimen of pills, we'll soon be downloading our brain into the Universal Mind. Health wearables, in their current state, are the perfect snake oil to market to a generation hell-bent on avoiding purgatory. It's Terminator X. And it's not a matter of if, but when.

Data is King - the device is just the royal messenger.

If you asked me two minutes ago, I would have said that one way Apple could save itself from inevitable obscurity (high-noon is coming for Apple under the marketing machine of every other tech company that wants to destroy them for the simple reason that Steve Jobs existed and pissed them all off) was not even to bother releasing a digital watch. They needed something "bigger," but still in the spirit of a wearable. A watch or wearable for checking email, or knowing that your mate is drunk texting you at 2am (in my opinion) was already existing quite comfortably in the realm of Samsung and a dozen other crowdsourced devices. However, give me a discrete and clever device that is plugged into the cloud by transmitting my health information and data in real time to be compared against the rest of the planet - well there's something that I can get behind. Smart, predictive medicine and fitness - imagine how much that would help our race to fill up the overcrowded planet even quicker!

Wearables DevCon is happening in San Francisco in March, so it seems that all Apple needs to do is fart an idea into the wind (Note: I'm not insinuating that Apple invented the wearable industry, it's just that Apple has been teasing the idea of a watch for so long that they've become the boy that cried werewolf), and the world's innovators now proceed to leapfrog them rather than wait to build on their platforms. It makes for a real mess when it comes to products. Too much competition eventually becomes unregulated noise, and too many unregulated products rushing to market will kill the market before it has a chance to blossom.

I discovered this on a recent trip to Best Buy. I was there to observe a business model rolling under itself - a library of tech that is filled with browsers but very few buyers. It turns out that Best Buy has an entire aisle dedicated to health wearables - each device more specialized and useless than the next. Nothing on the shelf fully grasps the concept of a health ecosystem, because they are the shoddy output of mindless corporate meetings called to simply "Market to the Meme."

health-devices

If Apple gets the health wearable right, they could dominate, but the domination will come from the thoughtful integration of the device into iCloud. Google had a health cloud product (Google Health) many years ago, but unexpectedly shut it down due to a shift in the wind, like many of their other products. Think of how ahead of the game they could have been with the release of Android Wear. Right now, some executive who made that decision is hiding under their hydroponic desk chamber - because they could have been light years ahead of Apple.

With Healthcare like every other industry, Data is King - the device is just the royal messenger.

So a successful launch of iWatch (don't get me started about how perfect that name is for a device which keeps an "eye on your health and well-being") would require the following:

  • Data infrastructure - The means to record personal Health data safely and securely. iCloud is already in place for that.
  • Automatic sync - A device which reports automatically to the cloud - we're all too lazy to sync our devices. Ask Nike how many people sync their Fuelband a month after putting it on.
  • Price - The price point has to be fair for this as well, because the more people using it the better. It should be released as a discrete necessity, with the basics included like heart monitoring, steps taken per day, and calories burned.
  • Open source development - A means to use the data and present info graphics and tools for individuals. Apple got it right with iOS and the App Store. Not everyone will be a runner, but a running app, a weightlifting app tracking reps, weight lifted, a pill taking app that reminds you when to take them, etc. -- all will be part of the health ecosystem with the right developers making money for their hard work.

Due to their formidable marketing prowess, the first loud shot has been fired by Apple in the healthcare and fitness revolution with the announcement of Healthbook. The only question is how thoughtful, nimble and careful they can be anymore when the snarling wolves are at the back door of their spaceship -- and they're all wearing Samsung watches on their paws... Integrated neatly into their own proprietary healthcare ecosystem.