We Are Wearables cofounders Tom Emich and Sean Mayers hosted a full house for Wearable Wednesdays Toronto at the MaRS Discovery District this week, leading a panel discussion focusing on health as an application, getting insights and perspectives from an investor, a researcher, and a doctor, all of whom are actively involved in the wearable space.
It is clear based on the attendance of the MaRS-sponsored event and the weable tech focused startups demoing their innovations that Canada is a force to be reckoned with. Venture backed Thalmic Labs presented the Myo, giving a live demo for their gesture control arm band that will be released later this year (preorder here).
Hadi Salah, Senior Industry Anaylst for MaRS Market Intelligence, interviewed the panel, which consisted of:
• Code Cubitt, the Managing Director of Mistral Venture Partners, an early stage tech fund located in Ottawa and the valley that focuses on wearables technology investments.
He commented that the savvy startups in wearables already know the potential and value their raw data will have. Code thinks that the evolution of this space will happen gradually and in phases. It started awhile back with step counters and he anticipates in the future that textiles will be incorporating wearables into their clothing. From an investing standpoint, he looks at who will buy the company and why.
• Isabel Pederson, the Canada Research Chair in Digital Life, Media and Culture and has been researching the coming of age of wearbales since 1999 when she was studying to get her phD at Waterloo.
She joked that she was chasing inventors from around the world that were creating wearable tech. Isabel talked about how the wearables platform is transformative and that the changes in software and hardware practices will require new values and code of ethics. She said it is very important how users will embrace these changes and that they will need to be empowered to encourage adoption and acceptance.
• Jesse Slade Shantz thee Chief Medical Officer of OM Signal and an orthopedic doctor.
He explained that consumers are more likely to adopt new wearables technologies sooner than doctors as barriers in the traditional medical field will have a slower uptake. He warned that labeling these technologies as medical devices or using the words therapeutic or diagnostic may have more regulatory implications and require different types of investors. His company OM Signal is focusing on consumer adoption first since doctors will not be willing to change right away.
Currently health as an application can read brainwaves, monitor heart rates and breathing. Other applications and benefits are continuing to evolve with emerging wearable technology.
The implications will lead to enhanced and accelerated decisions made on the fly, changing the relationship between doctor and patient, allowing more room for trust. Companies innovating in this space will need to be cautious to not overwhelm the user with data and to keep it personalized to encourage engagement. In the future privacy policies and who owns the data will be called into question. Startups can ride the wave with big companies as their industry continues to emerge. We were told that we should expect an announcement coming from Apple soon.
To learn more about Leveraging Canadian Innovation to Improve Health, download this whitepaper.