Over the past few months, we have encountered many cutting-edge technologies at events like TechCrunch Disrupt, Twin Cities Startup Week, World Maker Faire and Health Rising. These experiences got us thinking: if these technologies already exist, what could they look like in the not-too-distant future? To answer this question, we are embarking on a multi-part series to examine future trends and what they may mean for health. Read on as we imagine a world where the Internet of Things (IoT) enables you to track dozens of personalized health metrics from your very own smart bathroom.
On entering the bathroom of the future, you step onto a scale built directly into the floor, and brush your teeth as it simultaneously monitors your stress levels, checks your resting heart rate and measures your weight against your goals. Your electronic toothbrush tracks your oral health as you brush your teeth, issuing reminders if you miss a spot or don’t brush long enough. All of this personalized data is collected and organized in one central location, an electronic hub mounted on or behind the wall.
While your mirror scans your body for additional health metrics, it displays relevant data and information pulled from the hub. This morning, the mirror indicates that you received more than four hours of deep sleep last night, according to data sent from your smart mattress. Your hydration levels have also improved, as measured by your toilet, which calculates hydration levels and performs biomarker and microbiota analysis. As you head out the door for work, you check your other health metrics via your smartphone and push the most recent data to an EHR in the cloud, where a machine learning technology processes and shares key insights automatically with your physician.
This could be your future. In many ways, the IoT healthcare revolution is already here. Today, wearables are possibly the most prevalent type of health-related sensors, enabling consumers to track everything from heart rate and fitness levels to sleep quality and nutrition intake. New wearables like the Withings Activité, an elegant Swiss-made smartwatch that combines time with activity and sleep tracking, are beginning to emerge as alternatives to mainstream brands like Jawbone and Fitbit; however, rather than continuing to wear sensors on the body, we will gradually see an integration of this technology into common household products and everyday items.
Beyond wearables, a number of additional smart products are already available to consumers. For example, Sleep Number makes a mattress that measures the quality of your sleep and syncs with a corresponding smartphone app, without the need for affixing an additional sensor to the body. One challenge, however, is that many of these available products each employ their own interface or app and lack the integration necessary to achieve efficiency. In the future, this data will be streamlined into a single centralized location, making it easier for users to manage and view all of their health information in one place.
More complex IoT technologies have yet to hit the market, as they undergo additional development. One example includes the Proteus ingestible sensor pill, with its wearable biometric patch and companion smartphone apps. When taken with a medication, the sensor pill records actual ingestion time and sends this information via Bluetooth to the adhesive wireless patch; however, Proteus has yet to secure FDA approval for actually embedding its sensors directly into an already-approved FDA medication. As new technologies come to fruition and secure regulatory approval, the IoT of the not so distant future may one day even be embedded in the human body.
The integration of these technologies into all aspects of our daily lives will result in highly individualized data that empowers patients to take greater ownership of their health. The possibilities are truly limitless. That’s our take, so what is your vision of the future?