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Wearables Blog Part 9: Future of wearables for health monitoring part 3

Friday, February 19, 2016
Chaloner Chute - Digital Health & Care Institute

The last couple of months have seen a significant increase in the number of quantified self / health & wellbeing monitoring innovations coming into the marketplace.

Devices that have a heart rate monitor are becoming more common. Initially just the preserve of athletic performance wearables, the technology is becoming efficient and cheap enough that more casual / generic offerings such as smartwatches are offering the functionality.

Now we are seeing some interesting new ideas emerging to stretch beyond cardiac / simple activity measurements.

A new sweat monitoring technology is emerging - which will ultimately allow persistent, proactive monitoring for a number of conditions, in place of more intermittent, invasive and costly interventions - most notably blood tests.

The DHI Smartcough project is developing a set of signal processing capabilities and algorithms that will allow a mobile or wearable device to persistently monitor your coughs. The innovation is in the ability to do so from inside a pocket, filtering out 'non-cough' events and noises, while not overly draining the devices battery. 

In both of the above cases - the ability to proactively and persistently monitor will help health and care services move into a much more strategic way of managing 'wellness' instead of just reacting to disease.

Relating back to the last post on smart environments - Resbosk - another DHI project - is taking things in a different direction. This uses a camera mounted in the corner of a room to persistently monitor skin pigmentation changes on the faces of a number of people in the room. These changes can be converted in to heart rate and blood oxygen saturation readings.

The question this raises - when this type of environmental technology becomes commonplace, at what point will wearable vital sign monitoring give way to environmental monitoring. They key issue here being personal choice and privacy - but again if we want more functionality for less cost and less battery life - logically anything that our environment can detect in the place of wearables will be desired.

Either way - both wearable and environment trends demonstrate that the race is on in the quantified self-market - things we couldn’t conceive of measuring 5 years ago are now becoming possible - we will be collecting yet more data. The key remaining challenge is that we have as yet done very little with the vast quantities of data we already collect.

Next month's posts will look at what we have achieved with this collected data, and what is on the horizon.

Thanks for reading