Consumer Products

Telehealth…the worried well…data sensor fusion…buzz words or opportunities for innovation?

By Rachel Harker - Last updated: Thursday, April 8, 2010
The consumer products team here at CC are a pretty health conscious bunch.  We all like to cycle to work, are fond of debating the merits of the banana over the sponge pudding in the canteen and do all sorts of sports in our spare time.  So, as you would expect considering we also spend our days immersed in innovative consumer product developments, we’re quite geeky about healthy living gadgets as well.  Watching the market, we’re anticipating an explosion of exciting technology coming soon: Since health providers and insurance companies are waking up to the implications of the ageing population as well as the enormous costs associated with obesity and sedentary lifestyles, a new industry is emerging devoted to delivering health and wellness solutions.  The sector doesn’t just comprise the pharmaceutical and medical technology firms, companies from start ups to telcos to sporting goods manufacturers are piling into the space and creating new buzz words like telehealth, the worried well and sensor data fusion.  So what does this mean for consumer goods companies?  Well, we predict there will be five new emerging product categories presenting serious opportunities for innovation and profit.  Here they are, together with some examples of products already available today:

1.         Promoting regular exercise – Probably the most well developed category of our five.  There are a wide variety of products already available.  

Imperative Health's personal activity monitor

Of special significance to us is Imperative Health with an online coaching system helping people to lose weight and live more healthily by monitoring diet and activity and then feeding back personalised advice to encourage and motivate users.  We were involved in the design and development of the connected, personal activity monitoring device which collects data continuously and feeds back to the virtual coaching system.  

2.         Eating healthily and drinking in moderation – This category spans everything from functional foods to complicated sensing systems.  In Japan, NTT Docomo the network operator has launched a new service aimed at corporations keen to keep their staff healthy and productive.  

NTT Docomo's wellness phone

Members of staff are equipped with various connected devices including RFID enabled pedometers, scales and blood pressure monitors which track their vital health statistics and transmit the information back over the mobile phone to a centralised health hub.  The employer is able to monitor this data and intervene if they see negative health indicators such as rising weight or blood pressure.  

3.         Exercising the brain – There’s mounting evidence to support the ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy and it appears to be particularly relevant for the ageing population.

Nintendo's brain training

While there’s no evidence that Nintendo Brain Training is any better than the daily crossword, we must admire the marketing savvy shown by extending the market for Nintendo DS to a whole new demographic segment. 

4. Social engagement – A hugely important means of promoting mental health and wellbeing, the younger generations are well served with technology in the form of social networks, mobile phones etc.

CuteCircuit's hug shirt

However, social isolation is generally a problem for older people remote from family and friends, and as yet there is little helping them.  There are clearly big challenges in developing technical solutions which older people can and want to use, but given the genuine dangers of social isolation it seems likely that innovations in this space will happen.  A nod in the right direction is CuteCircuit’s hug shirt which lets people send each other virtual hugs through smart t-shirts.  It’s not quite ready for Granny yet, but it is most definitely cute! 

  

5.         Good sleep and relaxation – This is a pretty novel product category, but the advent of low cost, low power sensors will enable people to monitor and understand their own circadian rhythms, in order to plan their rest more effectively and spot potential health problems.  

Philips' wake up light

Philips has already worked on therapeutic lighting and has launched the Wake-up light to help people ‘align daily rhythm and wake up more easily’.

Comments:

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