Technology’s Impact on the Health Industry
When we talk about wearable technology there are a few devices that come to mind. Google Glass and the new Apple Watch have taken most of the spotlight in terms of commercial wearables, but when it comes to other areas such as industry or health and medical care, there are very few stand-out products.
We’re still feeling our way around the capabilities and uses for wearable technology and how to extract information from devices, but the more the technology progresses, and the more we understand about our needs as a society, the more useful and enriching the products will be. There are a lot of developers that are focusing on helping people with medical conditions to improve their quality of life. As goals become more achievable due to the tools at our disposal, innovation will be seen in a lot more products. Here are some of our favourite pieces of technology that we have seen in the health sector.
Back in January, Google unveiled their prototype for a “smart” contact lens. What the lens does is detect glucose levels in the tears of the wearer, sending the data to a remote device, such as a smartphone or a computer. This is useful to the wearer as those with conditions such as diabetes could be notified of any spikes or drops in their glucose levels, allowing them to take appropriate action.
So, how does it work? Embedded in the lens is a tiny chip with detection sensors. They are non-intrusive and do not impair vision, and for people that suffer from diabetes they provide a simple way of testing their glucose levels without having to take blood samples. The idea of having sensors which take readings from the eye could be adapted for a variety of conditions and may help sufferers monitor their health more effectively, and even save lives in the process.
iBeacons are small proximity devices which allow users to interact with their environment, sending and receiving signals which provide all sorts of information. Advertisers and marketers have spotted the usefulness in terms of targeted marketing, but a recent project started by the Royal London Society for the Blind has highlighted the uses in health, wellbeing and safety.
Wayfindr is an app which utilises iBeacons in order to give blind or partially sighted people directions when using London’s transport network. An app guides the user from one point to the next by audio queues through headphones. This could be extremely useful, especially in a busy city like London. However, for this to be completely effective iBeacons would have to be used throughout the whole of a city’s network. This technology could also be used as a direction system in tourism. By entering a start and end location, iBeacons could track your movements and alert you when you have taken a wrong turn, or send you instructions on where to go next.
Parkinson’s Data Mining
Technology giants Intel are working to create “an upcoming mobile app, new wearable devices, and a data analytics platform” which will be able to better record symptoms of Parkinson’s disease sufferers and hopefully provide better insights into the causes and effective treatments.
Where Apple and Google have gone down a more commercial route in terms of wearables, Intel are looking at the health and science industries. They are interested in how they can gather real time data from wearables in order to improve living and health conditions.
One app we are interested in is Transence. This app is designed primarily for deaf people and those that are hard of hearing within a meeting or conference environment. When in groups it can be difficult to follow conversations when lots of different people are speaking at a fast rate. Transence picks up the voices of the different participants in a conversation, colour codes them and displays what has been said on a screen in real time so that the user can read instead of having to lip read. Each member of the group must use the microphones on their personal devices and install the app. Not only is this extremely useful for following fast paced, complex conversations, but it also cuts the cost of having to hire sign language interpreters!
These apps and devices are very exciting – we are now looking to technology to directly improve the quality of our lives with a tangible effect on our health and wellbeing.