In recent years, excessive cold or heat in particular regions of the world has become a regular phenomenon; it reminds me about a movie I saw a couple of years ago, “The Day After Tomorrow” in which the whole Manhattan was shown covered with ice. Can’t say whether that can ever happen if at all, but on a better note today, I can see the possibility of our (may be our children’s if not ours) average lifespan increasing to more than 100 years. Well, there are many initiatives going into this longevity drive, ‘Google X’ research being one among other researches on DNA, Stem Cells and so on. I, being a semiconductor professional, am particularly envisioning how semiconductors would influence the human life.
In March, I had written an article on rising medical semiconductor market which was based on semiconductor IC usage in the medical devices along with the data from an IC Insights’ report. Also there are reports from different research agencies on how wearable segment will influence the overall semiconductor market in next five years. Wearable devices are the most appropriate for collecting data from human body for various diagnostic purposes. The data can be used to take preventive measures, thus increasing life expectancy. Medical applications are expected to boost the wearable segment in major way.
Today we are seeing most of the consumer electronic vendors launching their versions of smartwatches, also prompting the traditional watch vendors to launch theirs. However, most of the smartwatches have more or less similar features, either focused on tech quotient or on fashion; of course there are usual heart monitoring, sports, and health tracking apps. There is very less emphasis on specific and unique value a consumer can or should get out of her smartwatch. There is no doubt, the smartwatch is a very powerful device electronically and can do many things, but it needs creative thinking by marketers to work on those. That’s where the software comes into picture, but the app writers alone cannot do the job of creating specialized apps. For healthcare and medical apps, doctors and medical practitioners are required to infuse that knowledge, and then statistics from sample respondents because an app has to determine something out of some symptoms based on the intelligence it has stored from the data of those respondents.
It’s a long drawn process to evolutionize healthcare through wearable semiconductor devices in this way, but the process has begun. I was particularly intrigued after knowing about the Apple ResearchKit which is being populated with several information including data, tasks, methods, and so on by qualified medical practitioners and researchers as well as participants who have consented to provide anonymous data. The ResearchKit study apps are available on Apple’s app store; new apps are being added gradually. It’s interesting to learn that these apps, after their completion, are bound to be cleared by US FDA for mainstream use as medical apps.
Recently a ResearchKit study was done at John Hopkins University for detection of epilepsy. The epileptic seizures are unpredictable, can occur at any time in any condition the human being is. This app is being named as “EpiWatch”. In this study, the Apple Watch sensors are being used to collect the data from human body that help in tracking and sensing seizures. The accelerometer and gyroscope in the watch can help track the movements involved in the seizures. In seizures without any movement, the change in person’s heart rate is detected. The app collects the sensor data along with information from surveys filled out by the participants to study duration, frequency, and type of seizures.
Also there are other research studies being done involving ResearchKit and iPhone as well; ‘Autism and Beyond’ at Duke University, ‘Mole Mapper’ at Oregon Health and Sciences University, and some more. You can see a detailed report about these studies HERE.
I like Apple’s indulgence in experimenting new possibilities with their devices. Developing such apps on smartwatch can definitely add unique value to establish the “smartwatch” as a separate brand irrespective of what traditional watches do. This provides a great clue to the questions on how smartwatch market should evolve in one of my earlier articles – “Smartwatch – A Tough Puzzle to Crack”.
Although Apple Watch, just after its 1[SUP]st[/SUP] launch, is second in wearable market share, it didn’t get the response as was expected. However, once various kinds of medical apps on smartwatch become a reality for mainstream use, it will establish a new market for smartwatches. Apple can definitely be the leader, but it will open up the market for other smartwatch makers as well.
My article based on medical semiconductor market – Medicals Marriage with Semis.