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An Eye to the Future of Mobility: Wearables & Health Care

March 31, 2014 - 8 Comments

The explosive growth of the Internet of Everything (IoE) is driving a sweeping wave of transformation across our world. And the health care industry is among the many industries that are feeling its profound impact.

Already, health care practitioners are embracing such IoE-related trends as the surge in mobile devices and the cutting-edge advances in Big Data analytics. An ever-expanding multitude of applications are connecting mobile users (and patients!) in startling new ways. And many health organizations are adopting BYOD and deploying any-to-any connections, which link hospitals across the globe. The rising influx of smart watches and wearable technology that track personal health data also show great promise.

Overall, emerging mobile solutions can have a tremendous impact on the future of health care as they enable increased connectivity and a much deeper dimension and accessibility to key health insights.

In his book, The Human Face of Big Data, Rick Smolan, the renowned photojournalist and author, explores the interrelations among mobility, Big Data and health care. Together, he argues, they are transforming what it means to be connected. For example, wearables are already entering the mobile consumer landscape, where they are complimenting smartphones and tablets. But in the health care industry, wearables have tremendous practical potential. Electronic tattoos, Bluetooth-enabled dental implants, and a myriad of sensors that track our vital signs are changing how, when, and where we receive health care.

The “second eye” of this story is opening as we leverage the new insights available from this type of mobile technology.  For example, researchers have found a way to artificially recreate the complex code that a healthy eye retina produces when a person sees an image, so the brain can translate those signals. With such technology, macular degeneration patients can once again see faces, animals, even the dimple in a baby’s smile. Other researchers have harnessed these Big Data advances and embedded customer analytic software and cameras into eyeglasses. Through these products we will gain important new real-time insights and exciting new mobile experiences.

The health care industry is already realizing key benefits from mobility. As patients begin to wear monitoring devices before, during, and after hospitalization, health care professionals can access critical data via mobile applications. This can significantly boost the efficiency and agility of patient care.

What we are seeing today is only the beginning. Wearable technology has the potential to revolutionize the future of healthcare and mobility. ABI Research has projected that by 2016, wearable wireless medical device sales will reach more than 100 million devices annually. Moreover, mobile health tools and mobile apps support hospitals in cutting costs, among other key benefits.

cisco_blog_medDeviceSmolanFinalBig Data is an essential part of this transformation, but health care professionals will need real-time access to crucial, actionable information, especially when lives are at stake. After all, Big Data is useless without big insights. A recent Wired article about an entrepreneur that launched connected goggles for skiers and snowboarders illustrated this point. Originally, the inventor wanted to connect goggles for swimmers, but the real-time data would have been too small to read. The lesson? For the future of mobility to be realized, connected devices need to be more compact, faster, and smarter than ever before.

Within the realm of health care, wearables – and mobility in general – promise lower costs and greater access to health care. Rural populations will receive life-saving treatments. And all may benefit from longer and healthier lives.

Ultimately, all technology should be judged by its positive impact on humans and the planet. By leveraging the power of technology – including mobility and Big Data – the health care industry can help create a better quality of life.

How do you think the developments of mobility and Big Data are poised to transform the health care industry? Tell us via comment below or join the conversation, follow @Cisco_Mobility on Twitter, #FutureOfMobility and #InternetOfEverything.

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  1. What excites me most about wearable sensor devices is the ability to track trends, see measurements in context with the environment and what the wearer is doing, and to then do predictive analytics and guide or coach wearers toward healthier lifestyle choices to prevent medical conditions, not just manage them.

    Tech innovation in health care, as elsewhere, advances exponentially as described in

  2. While the compilation of data is inevitable, who and when to share it will become more and more complex. PHI in the work place is a very sticky subject. Especially for self-funded health plans that are directly impacted by the cost of health care. It affects the company’s bottom line. As a Benefits Professional, I do still see employers who discriminate against ailing employees and employees who take leaves of absence.

    More managers need to send employees home when they arrive to work ill. It’s that simple. No need to collect their PHI.

  3. Great post. I believe that preventing diseases right from each individual is a huge step beyond. How many times do we see people that have flu and going to work, and in within couple of days the whole office is sick (or at a factory, etc). Preventing them to go to work with gadgets, stay at home would leave everybody else healthy at work continue to work. Thank you!

  4. With the growing complexities of life, diseases have become more common in the present days. It is inevitable that you should visit a good health clinic for regular health checkups.

  5. One major hurdle for the big data aggregation in the medical segment is how different entities and service providers share and monetize the data. Hospitals already have some sort of primitive big data structure but to bring it to the IoE we all envisioned the segment needs to also incorporate surrounding services like clinics and insurance providers so the consumers are part of this picture. Not to mention the technology on the wearable devices (BYOD) also need to be elevated from gadget status to true medical end device (FDA approved) before it can really be used as a node for the “Medical Big Data”.

    As with most other segments trying to enter the IoE there are a lot of moving parts to sort through and a lot of co-operations from all layers of the supply chains to make this happen. But it’s exciting to just think about how mobility and big data can elevate the medical services… much needed for the increasingly elderly world population!