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Innovation insights Are you worth insuring? Wearables to decide ABy Julien Happich t Cicor’s first Innovation Insights Symposium held in Zurich last week, the focus was very much on smart wearables for health monitoring. According to recent market figures from Soreon Research, the smart wearables market for healthcare alone could grow from USD 2 billion today to over USD 40 billion by 2020, that is at a vertiginous 65% compounded annual growth rate. In these figures are included not only the wearable devices (from sensor-laden bracelets to shoe-soles or hearing aids) but also the software and associated services. And listening to the panel of speakers present during the event, big data is where the true value is. According to Christian Stammel, Founder and CEO of business accelerator company Wearable Technologies AG, the hardware is going to be commoditized so much that over the next 10 years, it could probably represent only 20% of the actual wearable value, while the other 80% would be in the data analysis. “Four to three years ago, big retailers were not adapting to wearables. But now they are creating corners dedicated to wearable electronics”, Stammel noted. “A few years ago, network providers were the clear winners, but wearables are only useful if they are used in an intelligent environment, and now brands like Staples are adapting different IoT devices under one platform. Automotive makers are also looking at wearables because the car is the nearest intelligent platform”. Stammel expects the most common and useful sensors of first generation healthcare and fitness wearables to end up converging into one central and cheap unobtrusive unit, such as a belt buckle or something not even to be noticed or displayed as a fashion statement. Instead, all the differentiation would be performed in software, deriving different services and applications based on behaviour pattern recognition. In the medical industry, big data can help you cut costs, if you use it for disease prevention and for outbound patients or to reduce your insurance premiums. Niclas Grandqvist, Director of the Polar Electro Group, briefly mentioned ongoing collaborative work with US insurance companies who push Polar’s fitness-tracking Source: (c) Soreon Research devices to their customers. “We collect the data and analyze it for the insurance companies”, he said, not sure whether this would lead to discriminatory insurance premiums. In fact, so-called corporate-wellness programs have already been reported in the press, enticing employees to exercise more and benefit from a healthier lifestyle. In return, the employer distributes less sick days and pays lower insurance premiums. But such a pervasive health monitoring program could go against your own understanding of wellbeing, as an individual, should you not want to behave within the “healthy standards” set by the company or the state looking after your health. Unhealthy behaviour (who should set the limits for this?) could turn your data into lower pay, higher taxes or even less or no insurance reimbursements (for damaging the workforce instrument that is your body). But even if there was a rational recipe for all of us to live healthily for as long as possible, should it necessarily be enforced for the greater “common good” through financial incentives? (read cutting national health expenses). One important barrier to overcome for these scenarios to happen in Europe is data privacy, lamented some of the speakers. Only political changes and legal reforms could enable big data to truly yield its full Orwellian potential. In the meantime, it is possible to integrate privacy-bydesign features into wearables, so the data does not become too personal yet remaining accessible for big data analysis schemes, one example being MIT’s Open Personal Data Store concept. For now, when using a service, it is still not clear to whom belongs the collected data, commented Dr. Stefan Rüping, Head of the Data Mining group at the Fraunhofer Institute IAIS. “People don’t think too much about that, but this can have many legal implications”. Without a heavy clamp down on “unhealthy behaviour” or making fitness trackers compulsory by law, another barrier to mass adoption is cost, of course. And more than medical regulatory issues, the question of reimbursement is critical, highlighted Dr Milo Puhan, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health and Director of the Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute at the University of Zurich. Should the health 22 Electronic Engineering Times Europe February 2015 www.electronics-eetimes.com


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