The Week in Wearables April 24

Consumer Wearables

Wearable start-up Whoop announced an agreement with the NFL players association. Interesting for a couple reasons: 1) The deal is with the players, not with the league, which some see as a way to at least partially level the playing field for players against teams collecting massive amounts of data about them, and 2) the deal allows players to independently monetize their data. Here.

Fitbit had a rough beginning of the week with reports of a Fitbit device that “exploded” on a woman’s wrist causing 2nd-degree burns. However, by Friday Fitbit had investigated and disputed the claims, indicating “external forces caused damage to the device”. No indication what those “external forces” were, but Fitbit must have found some very conclusive information to quickly and decisively dispute the claims. Here.

TechCrunch makes some interesting points about the challenges Android Wear is having in differentiation across hardware platforms and the increasing number of wearables makers building their own OS – Garmin, Samsung, Swatch, Ticwear, etc. Here.

Putting the Apple Watch’s progress in perspective – “These two facts are both true: Apple Watch sales are a rounding error compared to the iPhone, and Apple Watch is a smash hit compared to traditional watches and other wearable devices.” Here.

Click-bait headline, but some valid points about the next generation of wearables. Here.

Medical Wearables

Boston Children’s Hospital has developed the first health skill for Amazon Alexa-enabled devices and is putting the devices in ICU rooms. Patient-specific data is not available through the service because it’s not yet HIPAA-compliant, but AWS has HIPAA-compliant data centers, so likely headed in that direction. Here.

Wearable tech used for concussion detection, interestingly in the mouth guard, not the football helmet. Here.

Good overview of digital health progress in the UK. Here.

Microsoft announced a partnership that will create “B2B commercial grade wearable” and it will run on Windows 10 IoT Core. Here.

Data

2016 saw $6.2B invested in IoT start-ups, up from $4.2B in 2015, according to Silicon Valley VC firm Wing. There was a noticeable increase in mid-sized rounds between $5 million and $30 million, indicating follow-on rounds for these companies. Good to see investment in health wearables that are more specialized and insightful – tracking sleep, mitigating asthma, etc. Here.

The Week in Wearables April 17

Consumer Wearables

Lots of news from Facebook F8 dev conference this week. Highlights related to wearables are brain-computer interfaces and “skin hearing”. This is all very interesting lab work, but it’s many years from seeing the outside of the lab. Don’t underestimate the challenge of bringing scalable technology to market that interacts with the human body. It’s a completely different animal than software, AR, or VR. Here.

Garmin is stepping up its efforts to build a smart watch platform with its first developer conference and announced integration to IoT home automation devices. Further evidence of the convergence across sub-segments of wrist wearables – i.e. fitness watches and smart watches overlapping capabilities from different angles. Here.

Both Amazon and Google have made their voice recognition technologies available to their cloud computing customers. Here and Here. Very likely to accelerate the trend of voice as the next UI. Here (Valencell blog).

Apple is bringing a second ODM online for the Apple Watch. This is most likely for second-source risk management but China’s EDN reporting it will increase capacity “due to an optimistic sales outlook for the device.” Could be both. Either way Apple clearly not concerned about “slow” consumer adoption of smart watches. Here.

Research shows exercise is “contagious” on social networks. Fitbit figured this out years ago and it was a significant factor in their growth, but most wearables still don’t leverage social/community nearly enough. Here.

Medical Wearables

Verily started accepting applications for participation in Project Baseline, a 4-year, 10,000 person longitudinal study that is being described as “the first step on our journey to comprehensively map human health.” The study will use the “investigational” Study Watch announced last week, as well as a sleep sensor and a home hub for secure data transfer to Google. In many ways this is an experiment in the future of healthcare delivery – using discrete, continuous monitoring for proactive identification of health issues as early as possible.”What we are really aiming to do is figure out how do we identify people who have a change in their health early enough where we can make an intervention so they don’t come into the hospital.”  Here.

Researchers have developed a wearable sensor can diagnose cystic fibrosis (and potentially other diseases) by stimulating and analyzing minute amounts of sweat. “In the longer term, we want to integrate it into a smartwatch format for broad population monitoring,” They need to crawl before they walk – large scale clinical trials are next. Here.

Stanford med school experimenting with VR as a teaching tool for med students and patients. Currently this is “pre-canned” views inside a virtual human body, but this will get very interesting when existing tools like fMRI are combined with AR and ingestibles to get real-time views inside real patients. The tech exists now, the combination does not. Here.

Interesting insight on the growth in medical device clinical trials – up 63% since 2012. Here.

Data

Accenture report claims more than 70% of US consumers want to use “virtual services” to track biometrics, for follow-up appointments, or to be examined for non-emergent health issues, but only 1-in-5 people are actually receiving care virtually. Accenture estimates that applying virtual health to annual ambulatory patient encounters would save more than $7 billion worth of primary care physicians’ time each year. Here.

More data from Accenture – 91% of providers and 95% of payers say wearables are a component of their wellness and prevention IoHT solutions. Here.

The Week in Wearables April 10

Consumer Wearables

Fitbit’s smartwatch is apparently delayed due to design and production issues, particularly waterproofing and GPS antennae location. Another reminder how challenging that accurate wearables are to design and get to production. Here.

GoPro has started a trade-in program for older GoPro cameras in exchange for a discount on a new device. I wouldn’t be surprised to see wearables makers to do something similar. Tag Heuer has already done this with their Connected Watch. Here.

A study from the Annals of Internal Medicine showing mixed results on the accuracy of heart rate tracking in some fitness watches got a large amount of media coverage this week. However, the study was only 40-people and used devices that are several years old, including one that has since been recalled (Basis Peak). Here.

Another example of a consumer wearable device “saving a person’s life” by indicating a serious health condition. Imagine how many lives we’ll save when your average wearable can measure biometrics with medical-grade accuracy. Here.

Medical Wearables

Google’s Verily announced an “investigational device” for health tracking they call the Study Watch, which looks very much like a traditional watch. The device will be used in clinical research to collect “heart rate, electrocardiograms, movement data, as well as a measure of the electrical conductance of the skin.” One sign it’s clearly a research tool and not a traditional wearable – the device will not show the user any of the health and biometric data collected. Here.

Apple is working on non-invasive glucose monitoring. Huge opportunity; even bigger technical challenges to do truly non-invasive glucose monitoring with enough accuracy for guidance on insulin dosing. Here.

Garmin and Medtronic announced that activity tracking data from specific Garmin devices would be integrated with Medtronic’s remote patient monitoring platform. Here.

However, while patient generated data has great potential to positively impact healthcare delivery, but there are still a lot of work to do in getting the right data to the right place at the right time. Here.

Following more than 5 years of competition, the Tricorder X prize was awarded this week. Not surprisingly the winner and runner-up devices rely heavily on biometrics sensors and AI. Here.

Data

Forrester predicts 189M wearables sold per year by 2022. Here.

Here’s a fun one from the UK: wearable tech helps fuel 42% rise in exam cheating by university students. Here.

The Week in Wearables April 3

Consumer Wearables

The hardware makers in Shenzhen, once accused of copycatting wearables makers in the West, are feeling the competitive heat from the Shenzhen ecosystem that created them. Here.

Microsoft withdrew from the hardware side of the wearables market in 2016, but showed they’re still involved in the wearables market by licensing their smartwatch patent portfolio to Casio this week. The agreement includes “broad coverage for smartwatch technologies.” Casio’s smartwatches to date have used a customized version of Android Wear, but too early to tell if this represents a change in that strategy. Here.

Elon Musk is backing Neuralink aimed at building an implantable device in the brain aimed at “a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” The company is still very early stage with no public presence of any kind at this point. Here.

Blackberry announced they are expanding their licensing strategy to other endpoints that “could include tablets, wearables, medical devices, appliances, point-of-sale terminals and other smartphones.” Here.

NTT is trying to create a wearable that estimates calories consumed with a wearable. I’m skeptical this will ever work with any meaningful accuracy. Here.

Sweat analysis is becoming a big area of development in high-performance wearables, but it’s still early and we need to see much more validation of the technology for specific use cases. Here.

Medical Wearables

Perfectly healthy people are using continuous glucose monitors for biohacking. Here.

Can “digital therapeutics” be as good as drugs? Unclear at this point, but it’s good to see companies pursuing clinical validation of digital therapies whether they need FDA clearance or not. Here.

“Digital therapeutics” may not (currently) require FDA clearance, but the state courts are stepping in where digital health app makers are making claims they can’t support. Here.

Wearable medical device has been shown to significantly extended survival in patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma when given in combination with standard chemotherapy. Noteworthy because its the first time in 10 years any form of treatment has shown the ability to improve survival rates for this disease. Here.

Driven by new incentives in value-based care, “virtual physical therapy” is growing using wearables to track adherence and progress in post-acute care following joint replacement. Here.

Data

Low cost fitness trackers from GOQII and Xiaomi dominate the India market. Here.

The Week in Wearables March 27

Consumer Wearables

This one is from a couple weeks ago, but I just found it. Levi’s and Google introduced their new “wearable tech” jacket at SXSW a few weeks ago. This is another early example that wearables are not just smartwatches and fitness bands. This is targeted at “bike commuters” right now to test the waters and work out the kinks, but you can see how it could easily expand beyond that. Another interesting note is that they added this technology integration into the existing fashion supply chain and didn’t create a new one, which enables expansion and diversification of fashions and use cases to happen much faster. Here.

Apple Watch rumors indicate the next version of the Apple Watch may include a SIM card and “interoperability” with Airpods hearables, which would enable independence from the phone, assuming battery life remains the same or better. This is a logical next step and potentially powerful user experience, but it remains to be seen if they can overcome battery limitations and potential size constraints in the watch. Here.

Following all the luxury smartwatch announcements coming out of Baselworld 2017, The Verge makes the point that Android Wear 2.0 has made it “trivially easy” for fashion companies to make tech products. True enough, but it remains to be seen if these companies are able to differentiate purely on brand, particularly in the watches that have all-digital faces that look the same (Android Wear 2.0), compared to mechanical movements in hybrid smartwatches that can claim at least some differentiation in craftsmanship. Here.

Samsung is launching what amounts to a contactless payment system on an NFC chip. The most interesting thing here is the ability to pre-load “cash” onto the chip, which potentially opens up new markets and user groups that may not have credit cards or bank accounts. Here.

Adidas is launching a fitness tracker targeted to women. Smart move – there is a huge gap in the market right now in wearables targeted to women. Here.

Medical Wearables

Nvidia is doubling down on AI in medicine, particularly in applying deep learning to medical imaging, Not surprising, given AI’s significant early traction in this area and the massive potential for impacting public health, particularly in developing countries where medical expertise tends to be more scarce. Here.

A 50-person study has demonstrated the VR “significantly” reduces pain and is an effective therapy for pain management. Obviously more extensive study needed here, but promising results. Here.

A move to make hearing aids available over-the-counter is underway in the US Congress, which would open up new possibilities for hearing aid companies as well as hearables companies focused on hearing augmentation. Doppler Labs, for example, is a big proponent. Here.

Doctors at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA are using Google Glass as a standard part of doctors rounds. The hospital installs unique QR codes on the door to every hospital room, so when the doctor enters the room, the patients chart and medical records are automatically pulled up on the Google Glass screen. Here.

Buried in the Samsung S8 announcement this week was an interesting feature of the Samsung Health app – telemedicine capabilities in partnership with American Well. Users can connect to a board-certified physician for $59 per “visit” without insurance. Here.

Blog

Wearables market will evolve like the apparel industry. Here.