Wearable Electronics Development Fiasco

Published on November 11, 2014

Wearable Electronics Development Fiasco

    JS Herz is convinced that the advertised fitness trackers are just an unnecessary trend that hinders the development of wearable devices for those who really need them. We translated her material published on Wired.com .



    The Internet of things has become commonplace. We count steps, track sleep cycles, and track more and more activities using apps. But among all these figures and data, common sense was lost. Instead of moving on, the developers literally flooded the already oversaturated segment with their devices that collect a lot of surface information. The main users they see young people whose health status is not in doubt and is not at great risk.

    This is a shame, because the interests of people are ignored: the elderly, chronically ill, low-income people, who would benefit from these technologies. Companies are more interested in helping wealthy clerks get cubes on their stomachs or go through the next 5,000 steps than understanding the bureaucratic intricacies of the FDA and HIPAA. And this is at a time when there is a real and profitable opportunity to shake, finally, the ossified health care system and absorb trillions of dollars from the annual budget.

    With Fitbit and Jawbone bracelets on their wrists and looking through the lenses of augmented reality glasses, visitors to the Wearables + Things conference in Washington saw that the industry was in a vicious circle. Performing various exercises on stage, Peter Lee, an inventor who studied biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, demonstrated a fitness watch that accurately determines and counts the number of push-ups and jumps. Nike's chief scientist emphasized the importance of intelligent algorithms for analyzing human performance and was skeptical about the data that smart watches collect: steps, temperature, oxygen in the blood - all this has little to do with sports. Adidas introduced the heart rate sensor, which is mounted on a special biometric bra. Finally, it became clear

    Against this background, the speech of Kabir Casagud, Qualcomm Life’s business development director was supposed to be a cold shower for technology enthusiasts. By the way, the company produces those same semiconductors that are used in many wearable gadgets. He urged developers to distract from the oversaturated segment of fitness trackers and take a look at the problems of the medical industry. “It's time to finish with this kindergarten. If you really want to do something, check out the FDA. Learn how HIPAA works. This is where an acute lack of innovation is felt. And here is where the money is. ”


    Dorothy, an iStrategy Labs device that mounts inside a shoe

    But these words did not resonate with the audience. And that is understandable. Who wants to get involved in this boring area? How to monetize? After all, there are sheer prohibitions and restrictions when working with user data! Well, I do not. And in confirmation of this, just a few minutes later, the Dorothy gadget from iStrategy Labs was presented on the stage, which allows you to call the car using Uber, clicking 3 times with heels. By the way, the device became a real hit at the conference and has already managed to light up on the Good Morning America show.

    As of September 30, there were 266 wearable devices (118 of them belong to the “fitness” category), and another 23 will appear on the market before the end of this year. And all young, healthy, educated entrepreneurs are developing “unusually useful” applications and gadgets for people like them. And so everywhere in Silicon Valley or San Francisco, Austin and MIT. The Internet and social networks developed gradually: at first there were raw technologies that appealed to geeks and spread throughout the planet. The Valley believes that wearable devices will face the same fate.

    But in the pursuit of the dollar, coupled with a misunderstanding of the fact that the development of the healthcare sector is in the hands of everyone, such assumptions are doomed. It is worth noting that wearable devices do not take root in the same way as smartphones, for example. More than half of US consumers who have purchased activity trackers no longer use the device. A third of them generally abandoned the gadget in less than six months.


    Blood glucose test. One day in the life of a nurse. Bagnolet, France.

    Who will use the device to track health? People with two or more chronic diseases. According to a Pew foundation survey, 45% of US adults suffer from at least one chronic illness. While 40% of adults with one chronic illness and 62% of adults with two chronic ailments monitor their health status, only 19% of healthy US residents are monitoring their performance. This year, $ 2.8 billion has already been spent on wearable medical devices and is expected to grow to $ 8.3 billion over the next 5 years. And if you take all the “smart watches” and bracelets sold this year and multiply their number by 6, it will still be less than $ 6.3 billion, which will go to purchase blood glucose test strips.

    People with chronic diseases cannot afford to abandon wearable devices. For them, this is not an attempt to stay in trend, but a way not to be in a hospital bed. But while developers are thinking more about how to make a splash at the next hackathon than creating an application or device that is so necessary for many people.

    At some point, the question arises: is this situation really due to health restrictions or are young entrepreneurs simply not able to create technology for people who are not like themselves? Like, for example, an obese diabetic in a wheelchair? Or old women with memory loss? Or her guardian? Or the one who is forced through the whole city to get to the clinic?

    Can innovators challenge aging, disease, and inefficient use of medical budgets? Or is their talent enough to just click his heels three times to call Uber?