Developers of medical devices are slowly learning a lesson that producers of food and music players learned years ago:
Modern consumers want to buy products they can use on the go.
This latest consumer trend gave us fast food and MP3 players like the iPod. Now it appears to be spurring a robust market in wearable technology.
Wearable Technology: A Growing Market
The global market for wearable technology could triple to $6 billion by 2016, according to FierceMobileHealthcare. Three types of technology solutions will continue to dominate the market’s health care and wellness sectors in the coming years:
- Glucose monitors that continuously track a person’s blood sugar.
- Activity monitors that measure heart rate and respiration during a workout.
- Automated medication devices that give consumers the drug doses they need to manage diabetes, control pain and fight cancer on the go.
New Wearable Technology on the Horizon
Don’t be surprised to see a variety of even more innovative wearable devices in the coming years, says The Wall Street Journal. These devices will help people manage their health conditions with less direct assistance from medical professionals. A number of new devices are already in beta testing, including:
- Smartphone-Adjusted Prostheses: Buying a well-fitting shoe can be a complicated affair for people wearing a prosthetic leg, says The Journal. This seemingly simple transaction often requires a trip to the prosthetist's office for an adjustment using a wrench. But a new prosthesis called Magellan allows users to make their own adjustments by pressing a button on a smartphone. The device comes from Oklahoma City-based Orthocare Innovations LLC.
- Sleep-Apnea T-Shirts: Boston-based Rest Devices Inc. is testing a T-shirt with wireless sensors that measure and record respiration in sleep-apnea patients. Users wear the device at home instead of spending the night in a hospital or sleep lab. The Journal reports that Rest Devices plans to seek approval of its device from the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- A Glove to Improve Motor Skills: Georgia Tech researchers have created a wireless, musical glove that may improve sensation and motor skills for people paralyzed by a spinal cord injury (SCI). The glove vibrates a person's fingers to indicate which keys to play on a specially designed piano. During studies, however, people with SCI experienced improved sensation in their fingers even if they wore the device without playing the piano. Researchers believe that the glove’s vibrations trigger renewed brain activity in SCI victims.
- Biometric Bracelet: Researchers at Dartmouth College have developed a bracelet that identifies its wearers to their medical monitoring devices. The bracelet measures “bioimpedance,” which is someone’s unique response to a weak electrical signal. Medical devices like blood pressure cuffs would be programmed to automatically read the bracelet’s signal, identify its wearer, and send blood-pressure readings straight to that person’s electronic medical record, according to Technology Review. NextGov says the device could prevent mix-ups of health records at military and veteran hospitals.