From sexual health to snacking, the internet of things gets healthy

The Spark

22nd June 2017

The Spark newsletter is our fortnightly roundup of the latest innovation trends. To sign-up, click the register link in the footer of this page.

British women do it twice a day, but 86 per cent of them feel guilty about it, British mums can’t seem to stop it, and Australia is battling an outbreak of it. It’s the unstoppable habit of snacking, but ‘Generation Graze’ might just have an innovative new ally in their battle against snacking and its associated anxieties and health problems. Auracle is like a Fitbit for your mouth. Developed by researchers at Dartmouth College and Clemson University, a prototype wearable helps to figure out when you’re eating, and could provide data on diet and eating disorders.

Despite the emergence of healthy alternatives reshaping the snacking market, Auracle could be a welcome addition to the market for Internet of Things (IoT) healthcare tech. British consumers in particular appear to be embracing the category—now the country’s fastest-growing in the app economy, clocking up a massive 150 per cent growth in the past nine months.

Estimated at £47 billion in 2014 – with wearable tech making up 60 per cent of the connected medical device market – the global IoT healthcare market is estimated to reach anything from £107.49 billion by 2021, according to Allied Market Research to £124.95 billion by 2022 according to Markets and Markets. Business Insider goes much further; it speculates the market will top £316 billion in 2022.

A joint study from Lancaster University, the University of the West of England, and Nottingham Trent University found that patients suffering from chronic conditions such as diabetes or cardiac disease could benefit more, and the apps might also be able to identify symptoms of depression. This is something that mental health chatbot Woebot aims to help with. And in the US, the government has approved an app as a contraceptive.

But not all analysts paint an optimistic picture. In 2016, eMarketer cut its forecast for growth in wearables from 60 per cent to 25 per cent, commenting: “The still-young category showed early promise but usage has not expanded beyond early adopters.” Health wearables, it seems, might struggle to cross the chasm to mainstream adoption. Even many apps, despite the hype, could be “doing more harm than good.” Many studies have found popular health apps to be unreliable and misleading across a range of tracking tasks including periods, fertility, walking and general fitness.

Perhaps what the sector needs to help push it forward is a trusted brand that has successfully helped a new technology cross the chasm before.

Step forward, Nokia. The Finnish tech company, once the world’s biggest mobile phone manufacturer, purchased health innovator Withings last year. Now it has announced some new consumer products: A BMI WiFi scale and a soft-cuff blood pressure monitor are the two hardware innovations. But pundits seem to be most excited about a redesigned Health Mate app, featuring new coaching programmes designed to help you improve your sleep, control blood pressure, monitor weight and fat mass, become more active and even manage health during pregnant.

Nokia used to pride itself on connecting people. Now, it will connect them to the IoT in a way that might just jumpstart the market.


Click here to read the more of this issue of The Spark.