Wearable technology in health & wellness: how has COVID changed this landscape and what does it mean for your industry?

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Dr. Jacob Skinner

CEO at Thrive Wearables

Christian Henke

Director of Product Marketing at EMnify

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What you'll learn in this webinar

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What are the recent changes that can accelerate the deployment of wearables for medical use?

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How can we make medical technologies more accessible in the form of consumer wearables?

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How will the latest developments in health wearables affect your markets?


Five years ago, wearables were a niche, attracting little interest from the public and ambivalence from the medical establishment. One year ago, the latter was still true. Post COVID-19 we are entering the age of personalized and preventative medicine, the democratization of individual health and the emergence of a level of sophistication in data capture and processing that was unimaginable a decade ago.

In this webinar, we will discuss wearable technology in health & wellness and how COVID-19 has affected this industry and markets with the CEO of Thrive Wearables - Jacob Skinner.

Topics covered:

  • A little bit about Thrive Wearables
  • Technology advances that made health wearables possible
  • Considering the change in the world due to COVID-19, how health wearables help different industries
  • The technical and visibility challenges that Thrive solves for it's customers
  • Importance of connectivity for health wearables
  • Future predictions about health wearables

Video Transcript

[Christian:]hello welcome to another episode of the iot webinar series my name is Christian Henke and i'm the director of product marketing at EMnify. we know building iot products is complex and this is why i'm inviting to every episode an iot industry expert the expert will give you key tips and tricks on how to solve technical challenges and how to scale your product and operation if you like the topic or have suggestions for a new one subscribe to our EMnify YouTube channel and leave a comment now let's get started

[Christian:]hello i'm super excited to have another industry expert with me this time from the healthcare industry. today i'm joined by Jacob Skinner CEO of Thrive Wearables [and] we're going to talk about how wearable technology and health and wellness can be applied in the industry especially considering the impact of COVID 19. so we will discuss around the following four topics the history and technologies that made variable health technology feasible how COVID has impacted certain industries and how wearables can be applied of course we're also going to talk about the connectivity choice for wearable devices and what does the future bring for wearable health tech i hope you like the webinar so Jacob now without further ado can you please introduce yourself and your company and which customer problems you're solving [Jacob:]okay well i'll just jump in from where i i left off. so people didn't hear before my background is in sensor technologies and i've been in wearable tech for about 10 years I have recently in the last seven years started thrive wearables and we are a team focused completely on creating wearable technology products and having significant impact in that space trying to create technical technologies that change how healthcare is provided and it's a very exciting time for that industry so we're going to talk a bit about some of those opportunities in a moment and just to cover the basics of what thrive do and where we're from we cover projects all over the globe uh including Germany and a lot of stuff going on in Europe as you might imagine we cover physical device development digital interface development and also we did quite a bit of data science as well really specifically data science that relates to wearable type signals so physiology being the main thing looking at heart signals for example and understanding various conditions or various problems people might have in relation to their heart health so data science is a really important component of what we do we have worked on around 60 projects in the space we've worked on all sorts of different form factors and we have a really strong network of collaborators or providers of technology and we're recognized as kind of you know being quite influential within the world of wearable tech and the conversations that are going on at the moment out there quite a small team of 20 at the moment in house we're recruiting at the moment so if anyone's interested in getting involved in wearable tech please do reach out and have a chat lots of different brands that we've worked with ranging from Unilever all the way down to the smallest startups with very innovative pioneering ideas and we try to get involved in quite a lot of things across that whole spectrum of sort of client sides in order to get more understanding of the problems that are being faced and the challenges that people are trying to confront and i won't cover that one because it's a bit detailed but basically we are a sort of one-shot stop when it comes to when it comes to wearable tech we do all the things from concepts and innovation right away through to delivering things to mass production so we kind of cover everything we really take our clients on that journey and make sure that they have everything they need we can act as a outsourced CTO. if we're looking at a smaller startup or a scale-up company or we could be working as a sort of product owner delivering particular parts of a product portfolio or particular product line in collaboration we do quite a bit of other work as well which i won't go into at this point. Christian we'll hand back to you to introduce the topic [Christian:] thanks Jacob yeah so to recap happy to have Jacob here and we're going to talk

in different section threads we will have a discussion but you also have the possibility to ask questions actually we always encourage you to do so and

maybe Jacob we start off [with] you know i have a health variable device my my fitness band but that is beyond that right so but for me it's also a recent development. so can you maybe go into which technology advances made these health wearable devices possible [Jacob:]yeah it's a it's a really the question is really relevant to my journey within wearables specifically and how thrive has come about really and i was thinking about some of the historical foundations to wearable tech and the the one of the biggest blocks of technology that's been created that's fed into wearable tech as we see it nowadays is hearing aid technology interestingly so hearing aid companies have been around for a very long time so the early 80s people were using wearable tech to improve their hearing and to augment their hearing it's really interesting looking at those devices and understanding just how pioneering they were just how cutting-edge that technology was because even now we are still looking at similar kind of technologies and getting excited about them but actually the people in the hearing aid industry are looking at wearable tech and sort of saying well we've been doing this for 40 years you know so that's that's one of the sort of i guess one of the success stories historically with wearables in the more recent times we've seen a big height in wearable technology maybe five years ago and google glass, Fitbit as a brand you know there were various things that happened around that time that caused people to get excited and then very quickly to get less excited because the use cases were poor the user experience was terrible and actually the building blocks for the technology in those devices was pretty rudimentary as well and it's been a very significant challenge to establish new technologies to build new modern wearables on the back of that point in time the you know the public became disillusioned by those technologies and kind of disappeared which took the pressure off a little bit as well to tech developers we were able to spend a bit of time kind of getting our house in order when it comes to the core technologies when it comes to what's needed to actually make things accessible and exciting to people and one of the things that's really switched the opportunity on is new building blocks from silicon suppliers from those out there in industry who have recognized how big wearable tech could be and they started catering specifically to the needs of wearable tech so censors Bosch a good example of a German company who i've got a lot of respect for and have a really great product line really tailored towards towards wearables and all the major companies are investing in wearables heavily now not least coincidentally or ironically because of how much traction Apple have got in the space the earbud technology or earbuds or whatever they called that those those have really excited the the consumer market again and the revenue that they've generated from that particular single product line is so huge that all the all the big teams you know all the big manufacturers are now completely committed and building things fundamental building blocks that are really accessible to us as designers and can be used in all sorts of all sorts of new applications so it's those technology building blocks which is the switch that's turned the industry on [Christian:]yeah it sounds like a gold mine right or like a new journey because now the building blocks are available and you can actually adjust them to the different use cases

now let's go a little bit into our our topping looking at the recent chains due to covert what do you think uh how can help help variable devices in this post pandemic or you know still ongoing pandemic in different industry cases [Jacob:]yeah absolutely an ongoing and long tail unfortunately and it's taken its toll i think and a lot of people and a lot of industries have suffered incredibly through this pandemic in the leisure and you know hospitality retail industries but what we've really noticed is as with the consumer interest in wearables through the things that apple have done in the last few years it's it's also the case that medical professionals have spotted how important this sort of technology could be in treating people with COVID in looking at tracking and contact tracing but also more long-term opportunities in home care so being able to look after people at home be able to monitor them and provide them with continuous information or for indeed them to provide themselves with continuous information because as i mentioned earlier i think before before we got the audio sorted there's real challenges in healthcare you know it's a very reactive industry traditionally and we always pick people up after they've had a fall and we put people in ambulances and we sought problems and we're brilliant at that you know most of the health systems are excellent at doing that but what we're not good at is predicting and preventing things through understanding people on a long term basis and that's the most exciting thing that's happening is capturing of long-term trend data linking that with people's physiology even with their genetics and all sorts of different bits of information can be brought together to create treatments in advance of there being acute problems i think that's the most exciting area coming out of COVID is just just the openness that people are starting to have now to actually embrace those areas of potential and to turn them into products and services that people can engage with

[Chriatian:]great yeah and i like that so i understand Thrive is you know at the end building the full solution right so you have the different building blocks what are the technical challenges when you have the different building blocks and maybe also not only the technical but also the usability challenges that that thrive is working with and solving for for the customer [Jacob:]yeah usability users is this is the key thing here you know with wearables you are completely at the whim of of people's either commitment or abandonment of your technology based upon how well you design it and how well you make it fit into their life and the frictions that pissed or don't exist within a within a product story in a product environment so we're very yeah we're very we're very focused on on user experience and user design but the challenges from a technical building box point of view there are four main real areas of technology i suppose that go into wearable but there are sensors that measure things there are processors that deal with that information there are networks that are connected to in order to transport that information and then there are things like battery elements as well which sound a bit trivial but actually batteries are the biggest problem when it comes to wearables because you need to power these things they can often be quite power hungry if you're doing lots of measurements so it's those kind of four areas that are the building blocks and with with the the advent of these improved and amazing sensors that we're being offered now and also the processing capabilities that exist now at very low power we're kind of left with the networks and the batteries as the two things that really need to be considered and with battery technology that you know that's an ongoing issue but with networks we're seeing some really interesting changes and you know you probably know more than i do about this whole area but from a from an IoT and from a wearable point of view i think what's essential is that we start to have networks that are much more dynamic to the types of data set that we're looking at so low bandwidth in many cases but you know ultra low latency being a really key driver in some cases we've worked on projects that that tried to use 4g and those kind of technologies within a football stadium for example and trying to get signals around the football stadium when you've got sort of 50 000 people [in] a premiership football match everything is dead it's like there is no network at all so you end up with these challenges that if you're going to have a wearable that relies on a network and relies on cloud processing or cloud computations of any sort of cloud data the the networks just don't support that at the moment so it's really exciting to see some of the ideas around 5g in theory I've not seen them in practice particularly yet but i think the whole network kind of paradigm for wearables has to be almost universal there has to be some kind of connectivity whether it be through people's Wi-Fi whether it be through localized 5G setups or rather until we get to the point where networks are completely reliable and the latency and the bandwidth issues are appropriate for wearables it's very challenging i have to say [Christian:]yeah unfortunately 5G is not there yet for IoT i think it's there for consumer devices for smartphones but i guess especially the wearable devices like the the apple watch and so they're starting to catch up though so i can see that there is 5G coming out there as well i think also with with the existing technologies there is quite a good play within connectivity for health variable devices so you talked about the the football field is there any other example or any other challenge you faced when when working with connectivity and how did you solve [Jacob:]i guess a good use case for wearables and networks or connectivity is around in-home type solutions that involve people who are cognitively impaired or are very elderly and having use cases that involve those kind of people you have to think through the user experience so so fine you have to remove all points of friction for them to work so imagine a piece of wearable technology arriving in the post and being opened and used immediately no configuration no connections nothing like that those are really interesting use cases because you have to start working out for example would you would you ship that device with an e-sim or with a sim card of some sort on it would you ship that device with a wall connection that has a sim card in it so you can plug that wall connection in and immediately have a network and a system set up so there's a lot of interest in those kind of applications where friction and all of that stuff has to disappear not least because of how you know apple run things and how friction less many user experience things are with consumer stuff but going into those more niche areas there's lots of opportunity for better network connections lower friction less login less credential management all that kind of stuff so it's really interesting to imagine a way that those things can be improved i suppose to open that up to more application areas [Christian:]yeah i mean from our side we see let's let's say the WI-Fi at home is the dominant connectivity technology but the more the more and more cheap cellular connectivity is getting actually cellular has some benefits because the device is working directly out of the box and no matter if you have it at home or somewhere else Jacob so we we will let's say increase a little bit of the time of the power so we only wanted to do 30 minutes but due to the audio issues i would still continue is there any future predictions that you have around health variables what do you what do you see especially in light of covet and what maybe other technology advances are coming up and how do you see the the market evolving i mean there's some obvious there's some obvious opportunities i suppose there's been a lot of investment in COVID focused developments so governments around the world have invested into what essentially can be seen as firefighting really so mask technology for example and there will be applications that come out of those things asthma monitoring you know hazardous materials clean air type technology so there are those kind of areas that have had immediate investment and kind of been given a kick based upon COVID in the last few years i go back to what i said about remote monitoring and in-home monitoring those kind of the the core technologies that are being developed now in that space are going to have exponential applications so there are going to be many companies coming out of that space with with new offerings we you know we've had traditionally quite a few people in the in that space but i think because of how problematic covid has been people are going to be thinking about those issues and those challenges for a long time and it's going to accelerate those kind of applications in terms of specific kind of form factors and technologies that i see coming along in the very near future i think going back to what i said about hearing aid technology a while ago yeah there's some really exciting stuff happening with in-ear sensing with cardio sensing in a hearable form factor so i think at the moment we have apple ear buds and we have various other sports type devices that look at heart rate and those kind of things but what we're going to see in the future is this long-term monitoring using these kind of technologies where you can listen to music you can use them a few times a day get a spot measurement of a you know half an hour of data and that be sufficient to drive a whole load of analytics and insight that may come from from that data set and what's really interesting is that you don't need the level of quality with that kind of measurement so if you go to a doctor and have your heart measured with 12 leads of ECGs that's because you're measuring your heart for a very small period of time and that's the end of the measurement if you're looking at it continuously you can start to smooth out some of the noise and you can start to see things over that trend that long-term period which is really exciting and i think that i mean we're working on a couple of applications in that space there's just going to be tons of stuff that emerges from the types of data set that are collected and more broadly there is a drive to what I'm going to call consumerize medical technology so we talk about an ECG monitor in a hospital versus a very crude single ended measurement on a wrist device with all of the different machines and measurements that go on in a hospital there are people looking at all of those and thinking is there a simpler version of this which will give sufficient information to drive useful insights and that's incredible i mean there's so many amazing technologies in the hospital environment you know let's say 50 60 70 cannot be ported but there's a big chunk of devices in those hospitals that can be used in a simpler form factor and those things are making their way into the consumer space and that's that's really exciting because it opens up all those other doors in terms of long-term monitoring and remote monitoring yeah i always thought it's actually almost also the other way around with the snow with these Fitbits and so that actually now I'm looking forward actually to have this part of my my health their status checks and especially looking at my my family the older people that that makes a lot of sense and we have we have a question from the audience and this goes back to to the connectivity and i guess it's not a one type of question answer it goes back to what you already discussed what is the radio technology used to communicate with from the variable so you you discuss the the 4G for for the stadium and the indoor do do you want to add anything here the predominantly Bluetooth LE and Bluetooth 5.1 hyperbole those those are the technologies that we use every day you know that's what things are built because we have a wearable it talks to a mobile phone the phone talks to the internet and that's the basic infrastructure that's normally how it's done we've done wearables that communicate directly to the internet via a sim card you know on board we have had uh wearables that that connect WI-fi only and then there are there are more novel systems so you can use RFID for example and you can scan things as you pass them you can be collecting data and have a scanning process and there's a whole load of more peripheral ones but yeah Bluetooth predominantly is where it's at for for wearable connectivity 90 of the time yeah and there's a follow-up question if LoRa and Sigfox for low power if that is relevant in the health variables uh sorry i missed the first part of the question if LoRa and Sigfox that's to low power connectivity alternatives if that is relevant in the health variables market it is it is relevant i guess it's it's very similar to the challenges that we have with existing cellular networks it's about coverage and it's about reliability and both of those systems you know have limited range of list of limited coverage at this stage but yeah they're of interest and they've been around for a while now i'm not i haven't i have to say i haven't kept an eye in the last year or so where they've actually got to in terms of coverage they are relevant data rates are an issue and you know with with Sigfox for example that's a challenging amount of uh bandwidth to deal with very much in terms of physiology data but if it's about i know for example a fall alert if there's just a single piece of information being exchanged from the wearable to indicate event for example then it starts to be interesting and also it's interesting for deployment uh on a bespoke you know case so if you're looking at for example uh running a network an event you've got a huge area a huge amount of people in a smaller amount of space and you want to set up a bespoke network for that particular event that's interesting we've done quite a bit of work with using Bluetooth as a location system as well so it uses the Bluetooth protocol but it uses advertisement packets to triangulate so you have a set of receiver transmitter infrastructure set up in a particular location you can pinpoint the position of the wearable the user uh very precisely in that it's a very interesting technology and we've got a couple of projects going on in that space at the moment so that's that's a very much an rf play but a very novel usage of Bluetooth for a different purpose yeah yeah i always see it like you know i always take the Tesla example by LoRa and  Sigfox are challenging because you you put a device out and it in the beginning it maybe just monitors the fall of the person but as you roll out new features over software updates then you start needing more bandwidth which you don't have so that's that's that's that's definitely a challenge Jacob it was a oh there's another one another question do you pre-perceive variables being used in clinical trials so remote or rural patients can be recruited fantastic question I if I'd remembered i would have i would have covered this topic actually it's an extremely hot topic at the moment we're working with a couple of teams in the clinical trial space lots of excitement about using wearables for remote monitoring using wearables to collect real world data and the challenges are historical in terms of people's behavior people's culture in terms of sort of seeing this shift and being able to engage with it and i guess from a medical point of view being able to look at the types of biomarkers that we can create with wearables and actually have confidence that they mean something that is familiar from previous biomarkers previous approaches so it's that it's closing that knowledge understanding behavior gap that's the biggest challenge from a technology point of view it's a complete no-brainer i mean monitoring people with on-body technologies and taking really good quality data sets over long periods of time in relation to trial protocols is is a you know it's a huge unmet need and one yeah like i said that we're really excited about working on so if anyone's out there in that space of interested please yeah just get in touch and uh let's put you up

great the questions are coming so i don't want to end without an unanswered ass question so what level of security do you put into place to authenticate the variable user and encrypt decrypt data coming into out of the wearable i don't know if that is too technical or if you're a question yeah that's a good question what a great audience so i i guess my first my first response to that is you know it sounds like a bit of a sort of sound bite but blockchain and blockchain based technologies are extremely exciting for for patient records for healthcare information but he's extremely sensitive I'd love again to talk to anyone who's in that space wanting to work on those kind of Bluetooth technologies and the interesting part about that is that by measuring physiological signals you can create authentication at the root of those devices so imagine looking at somebody's heart signals and being able to pick out a fingerprint essentially and authenticate that user against that chain of information so from that perspective of the sort of cutting edge bleeding edge end of things i think that's where the opportunity lies in the future in terms of bread and butter security well i'm a pessimist when it comes to security generally you know we live in a world where things are moving so fast that i think security protocols and uh the approach to those things can be very poor in some cases when we're designing things uh we we you know we are dear to best practice we work with the right encryption technologies we anonymize data you know we store it in a safe way and we have to interact with you know government protocol when it comes to interacting with health records and being involved with those sort of apis so i think there's an awful lot that could be done to improve all of that outsourced by using better technologies fundamentally having less things stored in big vulnerable servers having much more democratic authentication use sharing of data but it's a very very important topic and you know one that probably would take up an entire webinar if we had some uh some other experts on the call as well that's true hey Jacob and and with that i think that that was the last question i found still the the topic the discussion really really exciting good insights from the industry and also what thrive is doing and i hope it was useful for for the audience and Jacob I'm sure we'll keep in contact and maybe we have another session on on security or you know maybe one one uh one other part of what what's right is doing glad that you were able to join us and we're sharing uh the expertise with us thank you christian really appreciate it and thanks to the audience for bearing with us and yeah if anyone wants to connect please do reach out to me on LinkedIn and say hi

[Christian:]okay thank you then talk to you in the next webinar to the audience and Jacob will follow up later


About the speakers

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Dr. Jacob Skinner

CEO at Thrive Wearables

Dr Jacob Skinner is a product development expert who works with people and technology to create user-driven products that offer real value. Especially passionate about wellbeing, health, and social impact projects, he works across disciplines to solve technical challenges in wearable technology and the wider IoT space. Alongside Dave Sandbach, he is the driving force behind Thrive Wearables, a consultancy pioneering the design and development of wearable technology products. Thrive has a global reach through its clients, collaborators, and partners, often working together on long-term and collaborative projects.


Christian Henke

Director of Product Marketing at EMnify

Christian is the Director of Product Marketing at EMnify and responsible for driving the strategy, roadmap and go-to-market for EMnify’s cloud-native mobile core network and connectivity management platform. Focusing on customer experience for Enterprises he is not only concerned about connecting things but also how to integrate cellular connectivity in the most simplest way.