From glucose-measuring contact lenses to temporary tattoos that can measure UV exposure, temperature, perspiration and blood pressure, wearables are becoming increasingly intelligent and making a more significant impact on healthcare. The world’s largest business and prosumer event for wearables, held every year since 2014, is the Wearable Technology Show. This year’s event, which took place at ExCel in London on 15 and 16 March, was co-located with the Augmented Reality Show and IoT (Internet of Things) Connect, offering the opportunity to explore a broader ecosystem of technology and connectivity.
Browsing the floor, a variety of healthcare- and fitness-related projects stood out, from the expected wearable clothing and wristband tracking systems to a host of other gadgets, apps and cloud-based platforms.
Among the interesting gadgets were Cupris Health’s smartphone-attachable medical devices. The devices and associated app enable patients, carers and pharmacists to capture clinical images using their smartphone, manually add other relevant information and share everything with doctors on a cloud-based platform. The doctors can then provide advice, make diagnoses and monitor patient cases. By facilitating communication between patients, carers, pharmacists and doctors, the system could help to reduce the number of unnecessary referrals and avoidable appointments.
Although still in development, one of the most promising apps at the event was HOSPITALity, by DataArt. When completed, it is hoped that the app will allow patients in participating hospitals to control multiple aspects of their hospital stay, such as change the temperature in their room, adjust their bed, change the channel on their TV, call their nurse or contact their doctor. Through integration with electronic health records and other systems, the app will also inform patients about scheduled procedures, offer disease- and treatment-specific educational materials, and provide updates and guidance from HCPs after leaving the hospital.
Among the noteworthy wearables were Path Feel and SiDLY. Path Feel is an insole for shoes that improves the wearer’s sensory perception of the floor by providing haptic feedback. Intended for people who have a sensory deficit on the bottom of their feet, such as patients with diabetic neuropathy or multiple sclerosis, the insole reduces the risk of falling, thus increasing confidence and independence. SiDLY, on the other hand, is a medical wristband that allows carers and HCPs to remotely monitor patients. The device tracks the patient’s heart rate, skin temperature, physical activity and location, and makes the data available to the carer/HCP via the associated app and web platform. The wristband also notifies the carer/HCP if the patient falls over, allows the patient to call for help and reminds the patient to take medication.
However, out of all the wearables showcased at the event, the ones with arguably the greatest potential to impact healthcare were smart eyeglasses, such as Sony’s SmartEyeglass. SmartEyeglass is a transparent lens eyewear that can augment reality by superimposing information onto the wearer’s natural field of view. The glasses are designed to present notifications in the form of text, images and symbols over the visual world experienced by the wearer. The glasses connect wirelessly with compatible smartphones and are equipped with an accelerometer, gyroscope, electronic compass, brightness sensor, microphone and camera. Apps running on the smartphone can access and make use of the gadgets built into the glasses.
Although currently not being used in healthcare in any way, the potential applications of SmartEyeglass are diverse and numerous. For example, doctors could view patient records as they walk through a hospital. Surgeons could access tips as they perform complicated surgeries. Anaesthesiologists could remotely monitor patient vitals. Senior surgeons could remotely view live footage of surgeries being recorded by a trainee surgeon’s eyeglasses and provide tips that appear in the trainee’s field of view. Nurses and carers could receive guidance on patient care. Patients could be supported with treatment- and lifestyle-related advice, tips to take care of themselves, reminders to take medications and other notifications designed to enhance the treatment experience. Theoretically, apps could even be developed that enable the eyeglasses to help doctors make diagnoses. And that’s just the start of the possible applications of the technology, which could help to boost efficiency, enhance quality of life and improve healthcare in a number of ways.
As became clear at this year’s Wearable Technology Show, the power of wearables to revolutionise healthcare is growing. Many healthcare technology developers are focusing on utilising wearables, smartphones and cloud computing to empower patients, enhance the abilities of HCPs and facilitate patient–doctor communications. We at emotive look forward to helping our clients stay atop of these developments and harness emerging technologies to improve outcomes.