Apple’s plans to redefine mobile health

The lure of wearable technology and its application to health is tremendous. So tremendous that even the richest company on the planet, Apple, can’t resist it.

The company’s interest in healthcare and fitness tracking will be displayed in an iOS 8 application codenamed Healthbook capable of tracking several different health and fitness data points. Which data will the app monitor it is not clear but over the last weeks, speculation and mockups have intensified. Some say it will track bloodwork, heart rate, hydration, blood pressure, physical activity, nutrition, blood sugar, sleep, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and weight.

Healthbook will read health and fitness data from wearable devices such as the iWatch Apple is also developing. The smart watch will serve as an accessory to the iPhone and other iOS devices, giving users easy at-a-glance access to common functions without having to take their larger devices out of their pockets or bags. It will also incorporate a number of sensors and biometrics. Rumors have suggested that the iWatch could also serve as a control device for home automation and there are reports suggesting it could come in multiple sizes for a customized fit.

Getting the “iWatch” and this app into the hands of consumers may take some time. Apple is not only on its own timetable for this product, but it will likely need to follow the schedules of governments. The company has begun meeting with the FDA regarding medical applications and last February was seeking people to test health related software.

Seven years out from the revolutionary iPhone’s introduction, Apple’s entry into the health and sensor world is not a matter of if it will happen, but it comes down to how long it will take for the company to implement its vision of reinventing mobile healthcare.

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Recreation of a screenshots of the Healthbook. Credit: 9to5mac.com

 

Health Tech Trends to Watch in 2014

2013 was a big year for consumer health technology. According to mobile tech consultancy Research2Guidance, there are now close to 100,000 mobile health apps in 62 app stores, with the top 10 apps generating over 4 million free downloads every day.

This year also saw increased adoption of wearable tech, a market that is expected to grow to 100 million units by the end of 2014.

So if 2013 was the year of wearables and health apps, what’s on tap for next year?

Mashable has made a selection of exciting health tech trends to keep an eye on for the new year.

Data in the Doctor’s Office

According to Pew Research, 21% of Americans already use some form of technology to track their health data, and as the market for wearable devices and health apps grows, so too will the mountain of data about our behaviors and vitals. Next year, we may see more of this data incorporated into our day-to-day medical care as physiological data obtained by quantified-self devices combine with medical knowledge.

Smart Clothes

A new wave of wearable smart garments will be hitting the stores next year. In fact, market research company Markets and Markets expects sales of smart clothes and fabrics to reach $2.03 billion by 2018.

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Foodeducate

Augmented nutrition

If you want to fit into the latest smart fashion, you might need to keep better tabs on what you’re eating. We’ve already seen popular apps such as Fooducate make things easy by letting you scan the barcodes on packaged foods to gather nutrition data. In 2014, we’ll see new technologies that take even more of the guesswork out of counting calories and tracking for pesticides, GMOs, allergens etc.

Virtual House Calls

Several online services and a slew of new devices that enable virtual care will bring the doctor to you.

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Google Helpouts Health

Health Rewards

If looking and feeling good isn’t enough of a payoff, how about getting paid for getting healthy?

Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health recently reported that more than two-thirds of companies offer financial incentives to encourage participation in company wellness activities — up from just over half in 2010. In 2014, we’ll see more use of technology to track and reward people for these types of healthy habits.

You can get a more detailed picture of each trend here.

Would you add other trend? Share it with us in the comments!

The Big Data within you

Microsensors in your shoes compile data on where you go and what you do. Your workout clothes track your daily progress at the gym and tell you when to slow down or speed up. The pill you swallow reports back on the state of your digestion, vital signs, and overall wellbeing. And as you sleep, a headband monitors your REM patterns.

Sci-fi fantasy? Not at all. It is merely a glimpse into what might be possible through a movement called “The Quantified Self” that has become mainstream.

The Quantified Self employs technology, mobile devices, sensors embedded in clothing and wearable bands, to drive greater self-awareness by tracking data related to exercise, diet, weight and other health maintenance, financial management, learning and so forth. Almost 70% of the American adults already quantify their lives in areas related to health and wellness and this is just the beginning. Analysts are predicting that we will see even more growth in the months and years ahead. ABI predicts that more than 100M personal tracking devices will be sold each year by 2016. There are reasonable expectations that personal tracking will be a $12B industry by 2020. Investments have been huge, as well: Fitbit raised more than $40M this year, BodyMedia was bought by Jawbone for more than $100M, and personal informatics projects on Kickstarter have booked more than $6M in revenue alone in 2013.

While it’s clear these apps and devices have attracted a loyal following, most experts are still trying to figure out what to do with all of this data collected. For example, there are several challenges to overcome before using this data in healthcare practice. Quality is a big issue: the data need to be good enough to be used in a clinical setting. Not to drown physicians in a tsunami of personal data is another aspect to consider. Data streams need to reach practitioners in a format that’s easily consumable, searchable, and analyzable. Finally, these continuous data streams need to be contextualized as well. Doctors need to know what external factors could have caused, for example, a rapid spike in blood pressure or true diagnosis can’t happen.

In the video below you can get a glimpse on how the Quantified Self is already changing our lives. If you want numbers that show the blooming business of data have a look to this article published in Harvard Business Review. If you prefer a written introduction to the field you will probably enjoy this report at The Economist.

Where does medical technology take us?

From the perspective of Daniel Kraft (@daniel_kraft), a leading physician-scientist, inventor, entrepreneur and innovator at Singularity University and Executive Director of this elite academic institution’s FutureMed program, this talk examines rapidly emerging, game changing and convergent technology trends and how they are and will be leveraged to change the face of healthcare and the practice of medicine in the next decade.

A deep dive into how emergent fields such as low cost personal genomics, the digitization of health records, crowd sourced data, molecular imaging, wearable devices & mobile health, synthetic biology, systems medicine, robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, 3D printing and regenerative medicine are transforming healthcare and their potential to enable clinicians, empower patients, and deliver better care and outcomes at lower cost.

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