Wearable Medical Devices: Endless Possibilities in a Mobile World

November 20, 2012

By Joni Bouley

According to a new study by Juniper Research and an article by Burrill Report, the wearable device market will be worth over $1.5 billion by 2014. This is nearly double the current value of the market, which is largely dedicated to consumer health and fitness products. Why is there an increasing demand for wearable devices?

Evidently, as smart phones become the source for all of our communications – email, calls, video chat, gaming, social media – more people are feeling like they are ‘slaves’ to their devices. There is always something to respond to, or check on, or browse. Smart phones are tied to 25% of car crashes,and the distracting nature of mobile devices is starting to be seen as a real problem. Physically having to handle our devices while we carry out everyday tasks can be a burden, so the development of hands-free wearables offers a simple solution - and is gaining monumental traction in healthcare. A major benefit of wearable devices (as opposed to devices that you wear) is that they are seamlessly incorporated into your ensemble. A cumbersome pedometer is a device that you wear, as it hangs on a belt for all to see, and it openly advertises that you are concerned with your daily activity. Try concealing an armband-mounted device, or one that hangs around your neck. They all send the message that you are not effortlessly healthy - and at the end of the day, don’t we all want to be perceived as effortlessly healthy (even if we aren’t)?

Wearable devices are already popular in the fitness world, often used for monitoring activity and daily goals. Nike’s +Sensor fits into the lining of your sneaker as you run, and has proven to be a huge success. Demand from the health-conscious consumer will soon shift toward the monitoring of more serious maladies. Such wearable devices act as extensions of a smartphone – they gather data and transmit the information wirelessly, allowing you to view it later.

The key to designing and developing wearable devices is to ensure they can be seamlessly incorporated; this is not only in reference to physical integration, but also to ease of use on a technological scale. Information becomes a fluid entity, traveling from one device to the next with little difficulty.

A perfect marriage of physical design, software, and usability.