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Mobile Health Applications Go One Step Further with Smart Shoe Wearables and More

In some cases, companies’ development of mobile health applications has not stopped with iOS and Android technologies.  Instead, the ongoing popularity of mobile applications has prompted both medical and non-medical entities alike to research technologies beyond traditional, portable devices. Some mobile developers have worked to develop wearable products that could potentially work in tandem with new or existing mobile health applications. Moreover, a Bloomberg opinion piece cited that the concept of wearables — or “tiny computers worn somewhere on the body” — has been an emerging trend since 2013. As part of its research into life science teams’ digital marketing practices, Cutting Edge Information has studied the development and uptake of mobile platforms.  Cutting Edge Information’s previous pharmaceutical digital marketing report delves into how corporate and brand teams alike develop mobile health applications —combined with how targeted physician and patient audiences use them. Examples of the types of mobile applications that life science organizations develop range from those that are effectively lifestyle trackers to applications that function as medical devices. 

One example of a marketed wearable technology is the smart shoe.  The concept that a microchip in a single running shoe (it’s only in the right one) can store a user’s running data and sync with the MapMyRun application is a pretty exciting concept.  Moreover, users don’t necessarily need to have their phones in hand to collect data.

Mobile health applications and wearable technology go hand in hand at the moment.  Sensoria’s smart socks work hand-in-hand with its mobile application.  These socks track metrics like cadence and how frequently runners land on the balls of their feet.  The downside is that to reap the benefits of these particular smart socks, users would need to bring their phones along too.  Still other companies are working to develop smart sports bras and smart leggings.  However, these concepts remain in the development stages.

So far, wearables appear somewhat restricted to niche markets.  Many wearables focus on groups like fitness enthusiasts or new parents. The same Bloomberg article referenced above draws attention to wearables like Owlet smart socks in which a single sock monitors a baby’s heartbeat and breathing.    For wearables to establish longevity, however, developers may need to appeal to larger audiences.  As wearables move beyond the first generation of development, companies will need to demonstrate the unique value their products offer.  For example, new wearables might collect previously unrealized data or may address existing, unmet needs.

Already, at least one example exists of a wearable technology meeting an unmet need.  According to India’s National Crime Records Bureau, a sexual assault occurs every 22.5 minutes in that country. In response to that sobering statistic, a group of five engineers created a start-up company known as Leaf Wearables.  Established in 2015, this company manufactures wearable jewelry.  Each piece includes a SAFER device which—if double-clicked—transfers an SMS notification to the user’s friends and family.  Once activated, the corresponding app allows others in the user’s network to track the user’s movements.  An advantage this wearable has over other, existing technologies is that it allows users to convey their need for help in situations where that might otherwise be impossible.

Today, wearable technologies largely remain in the nascent stages relative to mobile health applications.  Yet, with time, these platforms could pose benefits for a multitude of users.  For life science teams developing patient-centric marketing initiatives, wearable technologies and mobile health applications may be something worth keeping in mind.  Certainly, wearables themselves may fall outside of life science organizations’ wheelhouses.  However, developing mobile health applications and new platforms with the potential to complement such technologies may help teams extend the lifespan of their initiatives—all while putting the needs of healthcare audiences first.

Sarah Ray
Senior Research Analyst
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