Soon your t-shirt will change your health

Wearables are here. From the more common activity sensor wristbands (think Fitbit, Fuelband, Shine) to the less common and more cutting edge innovations. Soon we will all be wearing workout vests to monitor our muscle exertion, skin patches to track our posture or tooth implants to record how much time you spend eating, drinking and smoking!

Geneix went to South by Southwest festival in March and as well as getting to the Misfit event where I was given a Shine (now I’m part of the quantified-self movement too!) I heard a lot of talks where wearables were the ‘hot topic’. So what are wearables? Wearable technology, to give it its proper name, is something that you wear like a watch, a necklace, socks or a t-shirt that has technology built into it. These things can then measure or quantify your life as you go about your daily activities. An important point is that all these objects must connect to a mobile device in order to analyse the data and display the results, they don’t work without the accompanying app.

This market is set to explode. The mobile sensor market alone (without the apps) was worth a little over $400 million in 2012 and is expected to reach $5.6bn by 2017. The mobile health app market will correspondingly increase from $1.3bn in 2012 to a predicted $26bn in 2017 according to Watch as everyone you know starts wearing technology over the next couple of years.

What I find interesting about wearables is the fact that almost everything in this area so far is targeting health. From how many steps you take per day, to clinical-level detail about your heart function and blood chemistry, to stress levels, to the number of cigarettes you smoke, wearables are generating a mountain of data about you and your health. So, whilst many people are getting excited about the wearables revolution, I’m getting excited about the digital health revolution that is sure to follow.

The other important thing about wearables is that they are consumer products. The companies behind them are targeting consumers (or patients?) directly. These are not health devices that will be forced on you by your doctor. Because they are designed to look cool, and will be backed up by powerful advertising, millions of us will want them. This will bring digital healthcare from the sidelines into the limelight. Look for the Healthbook app in Apple’s next iOS for confirmation that the big players have already realised this.

At Geneix we’re naturally thinking about how this fits into what we do. At the moment providing important patient data to doctors at the point of prescription means gathering health records from large databases and genetic profiles from services such as 23andMe or Genomics England. In future we think we will be receiving patient data directly from the sensors that a patient is wearing. In fact it is possible that we are seeing the end of centralised healthcare, the mobile healthcare revolution is truly upon us.