At a time of rumors that the fitness wearables market might be slackening, there is a continuing increase in the use of the technology in helping people with far more serious problems than getting their 10,000 steps. Intel and Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva, for example, have recently agreed to collaborate to develop a wearable to track disease progression in people with Huntington’s disease.
Huntington’s is a genetic disorder that interferes with muscle coordination and cognition, and leads to dementia. There is no known cure, but there are palliative medicines. The Teva/Intel project will use smartphones and smartwatches, along with sensing technology, to monitor patients’ movements and function. Accurate monitoring is expected to lead to what is called value-based healthcare, which basically means that companies will develop pharmaceuticals if it can be shown that a large enough patient population will benefit.
Sometimes an existing product turns out to be useful in a broader context; case in point, the Microsoft Band (now apparently discontinued), which is being used to help people with epilepsy. Innovative research is using a program called MyCareCentric to collect Band data—such as movement, changes in temperature, heart rate, and sleep patterns—to help researchers identify precursors to seizures. Along with Microsoft, the research is being undertaken by the University of Kent in Great Britain, the Epilepsy Care Alliance, Graphnet, Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and Shearwater Systems.
We’ll keep you posted.