Wearable technologies are set to transform health and wellness experiences and massively increase our expectations of health and wellness services.
This customer shift will transform the health and wellness industry as a whole, dragging regulation and governance kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
Because there's nothing quite like a vast, shouting mob (of wealthy voters) to drive change.
But first, a little background.
The smartphone IS the killer wearable
Most of us have a smartphone. Comscore reports 69% of US citizens and 62% of Canadians own one. Every day more of us are connecting them to our daily activities, homes, cars, and communities.
The expanding universe of “wearable” sensors and peripherals are often simply data inputs for a smartphone-based experience. We expect to see few devices succeed without this symbiotic relationship. Those that try, usually offer an experience that’s inferior to simply pulling out your phone.
The major smartphone manufacturers are heavily invested in developing wearable “ecosystems” around their devices. Through close-range sensing technologies like BLE (iBeacon), NFC, and RFID, plus increased availability of mobile web access through Wi-Fi hotspots and cheaper data plans, there’s every reason to expect this trend to continue.
The smartphone already is a wearable. And it’s the hub - a “life tracker” with a growing entourage of sensory peripherals on our bodies, in our homes and all around us.
We’ll share our lives in return for transformative wellness experiences
A paradigm shift is coming to the world of health and wellness. With the devices on our bodies and in our pockets gathering useful data about our movements, behaviours, preferences and wellbeing, more informed decisions become available.
We expect to see a shift away from professionally controlled, centralized and complex documents, to a personalized, real-time and beautifully visualized story of our lives. This story will be ours to share - or not - as we see fit.
What’s yet to be truly explored is the ability for devices to guide us in our choices based on our data and our current context. Our location, our emotional state, what we last ate and more, provide meaningful insights into the short and long-term effects of our daily behaviours.
We’re excited to see the digital transformation of our healthcare experiences for the better.
So what happens next?
1. The value we receive from sharing our wellness data will erode our privacy fears.
We’ll build a vast personal health and fitness data history. Always-on sensors uploading data into the cloud will open the door to valuable and even life-saving experiences. The less-than-healthy will be confronted with some terrifying prospects. Will we be able to strike this balance here?
To address these kinds of issues, Forrester’s research anticipates the emergence of a practice in which the collection and use of personal data is consensual within a mutually agreed-upon context and purpose.
2. Augmented reality will eventually become the new normal for healthcare professionals.
Head-Up-Displays (HUDs), micro-projectors, natural UIs, (gestural sensors powered by devices like Google Glass or Kinect), and virtual reality technologies like Oculus Rift all provide the ability to transform our view of our world in useful and valuable ways, and are highly applicable to healthcare applications.
Google Glass is a notable example gaining traction in professional situations - surgeons for example, who will soon be performing surgery while simultaneously monitoring a patient’s vital signs. We anticipate a trickle-down effect to other industries and individuals.
3. Personal healthcare innovations will be swiftly subsumed into the major ecosystems. (Apple and Google)
While hardware prototyping is becoming ever easier, unlike software - which can be polished after the fact - prototyping real objects comes with massive costs and timelines, and challenging supply chain issues. As anyone who's funded a Kickstarter product can attest. This homegrown approach to innovative technology too often results in sub-par products, an inability to scale, or simply a distraction from more critical business activities.
Look for large manufacturers to scoop up any promising new hardware early.
One notable example was Nike dropping Fuelband production earlier this year - and we’ll wager that Apple will be the masters of this hardware in the very short term.
This is true for major hardware innovations generally but we're seeing a specific focus on technologies that have applications in the health and wellness space as our western populations are dominated by the baby boomers who expect to enjoy long and healthy retirements. See Oculus Rift, Google Glass, Robotics, cybernetics and body-augmentation, and endless minor acquisitions.
4. Healthcare providers need to embed digital capabilities, fast
Notoriously bureaucratic, heavily regulated and glacially slow, the healthcare industry is about to get a jolt of massively increased customer expectations. Mass change in behaviour is a far more powerful driver of change than any regulation or technology. Look for digital-savvy doctors poking at your data as well as your bodies in the near future!
Vancouver-based firm Medeo is an emerging example. They’re connecting patients and doctors in BC with a smartphone app. We expect to see platforms like this start to make use of a combination of video and messaging applications, augmented reality, and our personal health data archives, to enhance services and provide new ones.
What we’re wearing
We’ve been experimenting with wearables of all shapes and sizes - like Fitbit and the late Nike Fuel, Estimote’s BLE (iBeacon), Pebble and Arduino, combined with big data, our social graph, and data visualization methods - and it's clear that we're on the edge of so many incredible possibilities to create a healthier human future.
We’re already making use of a broad range of these technologies to improve the lives of citizens across North America. The benefits to individuals, their community and their city is remarkable.
And I'm feeling just fine too, thanks.
Does the future get your pulse racing, or flatlining? Let me know your thoughts. We’re excited about the prospects of creating transformative digital experiences that really do make life better for all of us.