The 2012 Wearable Technologies Conference gave a comprehensive overview over the trends in fitness and health technology currently available on the market and also covered applications that might be realized some years from now. The conference program started with a keynote from Professor Paul Lukowitz from the Embedded Intelligence Lab at the DFKI Kaiserlautern. In his quick runthrough over wearable computers of the past, he concluded that the smartphone with its market penetration of about 50 % of the adults in western countries is the starting point for wearable systems in fitness, health and personal data computing. He thereby made clear that with the smartphone as a personal information hub, we are now entering an age when our lives will be supercharged with sensors, additional interfaces in wearable gadgets and technologically enhanced textiles.
In order to successfully introduce these technologies into our everyday lifes, wearable technologies must follow the same princeples as the clothes we have been used to wearing for ages. Just as we can take our jackets off or change them for a different garment, wearable technologies must seamlessly integrate themselves into our personal information system, the basis of which has just been built with the new Bluetooth Smart standard. After this keynote, the conference speakers held presentations on lifestyle and wellbeing, trends in health and medical and future innovations in the Wearable Technologies field. Here are some of the findings that seemed most interesting to me.
As a topic of lifestyle, representatives from Philips Vitality Solutions and Mr. Papastefanou from the Mannheim-based institute Gesis – presented their approaches for emotion tracking and behaviour change. Focussing on consumer products, Philips presented a bracelet that measures the stress level in its users‘ everyday lives. Mobile apps for easy event tagging and collection of data such as calendars and timelines make it easies to undersand emotional triggers and learn how to lead a healthier life in the lines of emotional wellbeing. Researcher Papastefanou in contrast presented a state-of-the-art emotion tracking solution designed for professional use that measures a variety of body metrics.
From the health section, the Munich-based company Moticon presented its pressure-sensitive shoe inlay that can give a precise analysis of the user‘s weight distribution when standing, walking or running. With this innovative technology, Moticon can help cure leg injuries or facilitate learning complex sports like skiing. In such a case, the pressure monitor helps the user find an optimal position while skiing, which in return leads to less exhaustion and a flatter learning curve. Once the technology is ready for mass marketing, a lot of applications might profit from these in-depth analysis capabilities.
After just having launched their platform, Quentiq introduced its health management solution centered around its core metrix Healthscore. Based on the analysis of millions of health data points from some of the biggest long-term studies available, Quentiq has built an index that represents the overall physical conditions of its users. In order to calculate this healthscore, the company offers mobile applications for tracking sports activities, integrating data from various available sensors and utilizing self-assessments for its users. All this information merged together cumulates in the Healthscore, a single number that describes your overall health likeliness. Just as discussed in the German media as a future scenario, Quentiq‘s business model intends to cooperate with health insurance companies, which might take the neutral healthscore as a basis to create an incentive for their customers to lead a healthier lifestyle. Quentiq‘s promise to foster fitness with game mechanics is an interesting approach to cope with the ever-rising health costs in our society.
As an outlook for the future of wearable technology, Vladimir Leonov from the Belgian nano electronics research center IMEC gave an introduction to their energy harvesting technology. With thermo-electric elements integrated into textiles, we might be able to produce all the energy neccessary for our sensors with our own body heat. Obviously, huge improvements in energy consumption of the distributed electronics will be necessary before this can be implemented into future sensors. The presentation by David Icke from the research company MC10 seemed even more futuristic: In his work on the future of electronic circuits, Mr. Icke presented flexible, printable electronic circuits that can be placed on any subtrate such as textiles or skin. This would allow the most seamless solution to physical monitoring and could make medical applications much more effective in performance, data quality, compliance and comfort.
Getting back to the prospects of 2012, the solutions presented at the Wearable Technologies Conference made clear that the megatrends in quantified self, mobile health and wearable technologies are just beginning and still have lots of great opportunities to come. Wearable Technologies will present a number of wearable products at the CeBIT 2012 from March 6th to 10th where I support their team. Meet us at our booth C20 in hall 8.
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