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Monday, May 26, 2014


      Today, consumers already use devices to monitor their health and fitness stats via smartphone applications that track daily movement and calories burnt versus intake, or devices that track steps and monitor metrics such as body temperature, stress and even sleep quality. These so-called "fitness activity trackers" are just the tip of the iceberg. By 2018, ABI Research estimates the projected revenue from wearable wireless healthcare devices could top $6 billion. Sooner than you think, wearables in a range of form factors-from sci-fi looking headpieces and skin patches to clothing-based sensors and everything in between-will be available to consumers. The applications will be just as varied. An embedded sensor in your watch might tell you exactly how well your body is reacting to treatment or a smart bandage capable of monitoring your pain might dispense electric pulses to help you control it. In addition to providing data to aid in clinical scenarios, wearables also have the potential to manage conditions like autism and attention deficit disorder, and even prevent seizures in people living with epilepsy.Wireless connectivity drives wearable devices These once unimaginable concepts in wearable healthcare devices are now edging ever closer to reality thanks to a perfect pairing of wireless accessibility with innovative technologies like mobile computing, cloud services and sensors. At the heart of this happy union is wireless connectivity embedded into sensor-laden devices that allow for an individual's personal data to be transmitted to "the cloud" for analysis and safekeeping. It also turns the devices we already have, our smartphones and tablets, into helpers that can take the workload off of the sensing devices themselves. This is critical, since one of the biggest challenges for the emerging wearable healthcare market is data processing and storage.Our bodies, as well as our behaviors, generate a wealth of data for wearable healthcare devices. The sheer quantity of that data constantly being tracked and collected will be staggering. Further complicating matters, the raw data will need to be processed and analyzed based on additional contextual information for it to have any real value. For example, a clinician looking at raw data from a patient showing a significant jump in heart rate might come to a very different conclusion if he knew the patient was sleeping versus running a 5K. Managing all of this data will be critical to ensuring consumers and healthcare professionals alike reap the greatest benefit from wearable healthcare devices. Some companies are creating their own applications to deal with this dilemma, but even that solution has its drawbacks, since it essentially scatters the information across multiple applications. The solution just might require a fusion of inputs to a single application that can act as the consolidation point for multiple sets of information. It would not only act as a repository for the data, but also conduct the data processing necessary to ensuring only important changes in a person's health would be forwarded, safely and securely, to the appropriate clinician. Data privacy: a key concern?The other issue with regard to managing the data is privacy. Who exactly has control over the data and who has access-you, your doctor, your insurance company? Patients have a right to keep their personal health information private and will want to know that any data collected via a wearable healthcare device is secure. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which requires the protection and confidential handling of protected health information, will definitely help in this regard. However, additional security embedded with the connectivity forwarding of the data will also be valued above and beyond what's already being used to keep medical databases secure will also be necessary; especially if the data collected via a wearable device is to be stored in the cloud.Assuming all of the data from wearable healthcare devices can be effectively managed and secured, that still leaves another challenge. What happens, for example, when everybody is carrying devices that wirelessly gather and sync continuously monitored heart rate data? Unfortunately, wireless network capacity will likely be strained under the demand for access. To prevent the potential access stress, the wireless industry will need to ensure the infrastructure is in place to bear the load forced on it. That means new access points and home gateways, small cells, backhaul networks and high-capacity switches will all be needed to help manage the flow of exponentially more data traffic.Additionally, to help mitigate data traffic challenges, the processing power of smartphones and tablets can be harnessed to negotiate the data collected by emerging wearable healthcare devices. This will also help reduce the processing requirements and power needs of wearable devices and, in turn, drive down costs for manufacturers and consumers.While there is no denying that wearable technology has moved far beyond the concept stage, its impact on the healthcare industry is only starting to be felt. Exactly what the full weight of that impact will look like is still up for debate. With the right technology behind it, however, anything is possible. - See more at:

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