Wearable Sensor-monitoring Technology Could Change Preventative Medicine Forever

by Tom Emrich

Toronto-based InteraXon CEO, Ariel Garten, took the Engadget Expand stage recently wearing a baby blue headband and as she sat she lifted up her smartphone and said “this is me, this is my brain," a fantastic start to a panel put together to look at future technology.

Garten’s headband is called Muse, a fashion-forward brainwave sensing wearable device which monitors and collects data from your brain and sends to your smartphone or tablet. Think this sounds like a concept we will see only in the future? Think again. This device is expected to hit the market later this year.

Joining Ariel on the panel were two other thought leaders in the sensor monitoring and wearable tech space. Dave Icke, CEO of MC10, which is striving to make wearable tech invisible through small, flexible computer chip technology that forms to your body to wear like a tattoo; and Walter De Brouwer, CEO of Scanadu, which makes personal medical devices for smartphones and tablets which scans and interprets your body’s health.

The panel unanimously presented a future where we will all be wearing devices which passively collect and interpret personal data which watch our actions but especially focus on our biological health. They also agree that this future is not too far off.

In fact, De Brouwer went as far to say that mass adoption of sensor monitoring tech is only about five years from becoming a true reality and that preventative medicine as we know it will not exist 10 years ago because of this technology.

Garten said that in the future data will be as valuable as oil. It will be mined and then used as a commodity for personal and other decision-making. For her, this data act as an agent of change and will help us finally know ourselves.

“We are sitting at the eve of the battle to conquer knowledge of our own bodies,” says De Brouwer and adds that when we reach the point where we are starting to make decisions (medical or otherwise) rooted in our own personal data; our grandchildren will look back at this time and wonder how we ever survived without it.

Of course gathering of data is nothing without knowing what to do with it and so in order for these devices to really take off with the mass market, they will need to be simple to use and clearly identify the user value with easy to understand dashboards and alerts.

The direct application of these sensing devices is for health care but there are many applications which can be applied to this technology including performance based activities and sports. MC10 already has in the works Checklight, a device which monitors trauma to the head for impact sports and of course we are already seeing a massive explosion of wearable tech in the fitness sector with Nike’s Fuelband and Under Armour’s upcoming Armour39. 

Of course, with any talk of collection of data, one of the biggest concerns is privacy. Muse will ensure that the user will own all of the data it collects. But the panel agreed that just as we have seen public opinion change on privacy and data collection with social networks, this change will happen again with this new type of sharing.

Sharing of personal data however should not be something we are scared of.  Dave Icke suggests that this data could be used to encourage and motivate users by creating a sense of pride and/or responsibility. As well, the panel agreed that being able to collect and analyze a wide set of data across the world will dramatically assist in medical advancements.



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Tom Emrich

Tom Emrich

Tom is a freelance consultant and blogger based in Toronto specializing in mobile, tablets and emerging technology. He has worked with independent developers, major media companies and start-ups on successfully developing, launching and marketing digital products here in Canada and abroad. His professional passion for technology is eclipsed only by his personal obsession with emerging... more

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