Wearables Tech Digest - January 2017

Wearables can help in predicting illness

Using data from wearables of 60 people, scientists at Stanford University believe they can predict when someone is going to fall ill. In addition to two billion measurements from wearable sensors, the participants’ blood chemistry, gene expression and other lab based measurements were used to show that given a baseline range of individual values it is possible to see changes in the wearables data which correspond with development of certain illnesses. 
The co-author of the study Michael Snyder noticed changes in his heart rate and blood oxygen levels while on a flight in 2015. Nothing strange there. But when he returned to the ground the data kept reading oddly. He soon developed a fever and other overt symptoms of illness. He asked a doctor to give him doxycycline (an antibiotic used to treat Lyme disease), believing that he had been bitten by a tic a few weeks earlier while doing some work in the garden. Later tests confirmed his self-diagnosis. 
The study also suggested that the information gleaned from wearable devices could detect people at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Sgnl fingertip audio revealed at CES 2017

“Hearables” product Sgnl is a device which allows the user to answer phone calls by placing a fingertip at an ear. The device is a watchstrap, that can be retrofitted to any type of watch, with built-in microphone; it uses bone conductivity technology to transmit audio from the wristband through the hand to the fingertip and into the ear. The device is connected to the user’s phone by Bluetooth allowing a call to be answered by raising a finger to the ear. The device also works as an activity tracker, and can notify the user of push notifications, emails or texts. 

Panasonic’s flexible battery

Panasonic recently announced it has developed a flexible, thin (0.55mm) rechargeable lithium ion battery. Panasonic says that it would be suitable for use in card-type and wearable devices. The battery retains its characteristics after repeated bending and twisting, to a radius of 25mm and an angle of 25 degrees respectively. Panasonic claims that its battery performs better than similar Li-ion batteries in use in cards or wearables. It sees the device being adopted for card devices, smart clothing, body attached devices and wristband devices. It displayed three sizes at CES: 28.5mm x 39mm, 35mm x 55mm, and 40mm x 65mm.

Diabetes monitoring band

PKvitality, a medical technology company, has recently revealed its SkinTaste biosensor – it’s equipped with an array of tiny needles that collect and analyse skin fluid. The sensor which is embedded in the company’s K’Track Glucose and K’Track Athlete wearable products has 0.5mm long micro-needles that penetrate the skin’s surface to probe interstitial fluid (a substance surrounding tissue cells). The interstitial fluid absorbs glucose from the blood, meaning that the fluid sample taken by the K’Track Glucose band can be tested for glucose levels to provide a sensor for diabetics. By pressing a button on the device, the user can take a real-time reading of glucose level which is automatically logged on a smartphone app along with all the usual fitness tracking information such as heart rate, steps taken etc. The biosensor capsule has to be changed every 30 days. The K’Track Athlete is similar but monitors lactic acid.

Wearables data being used to help the elderly

Masonic Homes, a US care home company, has joined with three other senior care providers and Big Cloud Analytics (BCA), a data analysis specialist, to look into how wearables can be used in residents’ health care programmes. The elderly participants each received an activity tracking band and a tablet computer. BCA takes the fitness data, and questionnaire data – on meal times, age, sex, medication – from the participants and analyses it using its ‘Convalescence Health Analytics’ platform to identify trends. BCA said that the biggest problem it faced when analysing the data was that the fitness bands were unable to accurately measure the amount of steps taken and general activity level as the wearable couldn’t accurately sense movement due to use of a cane or Zimmer frame. BCA says that they are using the 50,000-70,000 data points collected from each participant per day to work out a new ‘norm’ for the senior population. 

At work and play wearables are monitoring you

Humanyze, a company offering ‘people analytics’, has been working with European and American businesses to improve staff performance – by fitting them with wearables. The wearable is a ID-card-like badge which can monitor employees’ interaction with colleagues and management, movement within the workspace, and preferred method and frequency of interaction (email and chat data can be extracted from the employees’ computers). The data collected is then analysed to create visual maps detailing communication networks between employees. Humanyze says those with denser networks are more likely to be productive than those with less dense networks. 
And if you want a holiday to escape monitoring at work, there’s some bad news. Carnival, a cruise company, is introducing Medallion to its Regal Princess cruise ship. The wearable is a small Bluetooth and NFC (near-field communication) equipped token connected to 7,000 on-ship sensors. As the customer approaches his or her room the token will activate the room’s heating and lights; it will even unlock the door. The system will also activate the television system to broadcast personalised adverts for services you may be interested in.

Smart nicotine patch 

SmartStop patch is a wearable designed to help people quit smoking. The patch is attached to the skin and releases nicotine to reduce cravings at the optimum time – such as after a meal or after waking – according to maker CronoTherapeutics. Between peaks the device releases a steady, low level of nicotine to help the smoker quit. The patch is designed to be replaced every 24 hours and over a course of ten weeks the user will gradually reduce the nicotine strength by replacing it with a patch containing lower nicotine. While going through the quitting process the user will be logging information to a smartphone application which monitors the users progress – the device has a ‘craving button’ which sends data to the app – and provides motivational support. 

Connected health care

San-Francisco based start-up Forward is offering a technologically driven healthcare system for USD149/month. Forward was founded by the previous head of Special Projects at Alphabet (Google’s holding company). According to its website it is offering health monitoring, body scans, 24/7 access to doctors face to face or via an app, nutrition, blood tests, health coaching, even DNA analysis to determine cancer risk. The company is also providing all the patient’s medical history, medicine schedule, and wearables data on an app for the patient to access whenever they choose. 

Feeling thirsty? Hydration monitor

North Carolina State University researchers have developed a wearable, flexible, wireless sensor that can detect when a person is becoming dehydrated. The device is made of two elastic polymer composite electrodes containing silver nanowire. These monitor the electrical properties of the skin which can provide a reliable measure of hydration levels. The body wearable patches and wristband can wirelessly send data to a computer or smartphone. The researchers say that the monitor is just as accurate as larger commercially available hydration monitors. They see its potential for use by athletes, people working in hot environments, the elderly, and the cosmetics industry. 

UnitedHealthcare using step counting to offer employees rewards

UnitedHealthcare Motion is a US wellness programme set up by UnitedHealthcare and Qualcomm subsidiary Qualcomm Life. The programme provides employees with wearable devices that enable them to earn credits on their Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) of up to USD1460 per year if they meet daily activity goals. Currently the devices are being offered to companies with 101-300 employees with fully-insured health plans. The employees and their spouses, if covered in the health insurance, will receive a fitness tracker band to monitor daily steps, their frequency and intensity. The data so received is then sent to United-Healthcare Motion app powered by Qualcomm Life’s 2net Mobile connectivity platform. The employees earn credit which can then be used to pay for medical expenses, while employers can obtain savings on employee health insurance.

Samsung opens up wearables to Apple users

Samsung has announced that its wearable devices such as the Samsung Gear smartwatch will now be compatible with the Apple operating system iOS, allowing iPhone users to use Samsung wearables. Apple users will be able to download an app from the Apple App Store which will guide the user through syncing the devices.  

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