By Christine Robins
Amid all the debate over spiraling healthcare costs, one of the bright spots involves the role that mobile technology can play in helping consumers track basic health indicators without the expense of visiting their doctors. That emerging emphasis on self-monitoring promises to dramatically expand the market for wearable body sensors.
Until a few decades ago, the biggest inroad technology had made into fitness and weight management was a pedometer. More recently, accelerometers took fitness and weight management technology a step further. And then, a new wave of more sophisticated body monitors, called multi-sensor body monitors, which go beyond accelerometers, came on the scene. But still, until now, these body monitors have been used primarily as aids for weight management. Worn on the tricep 24/7 like body meters, they continuously collect a variety of metabolic data that is then converted into measurements like calorie burn and physical activity levels.
Accompanying software stores those measurements, provides food logging, and lets users see how well they have stuck to their weight loss plans – or not. Some platforms also recommend activity and dietary adjustments based on each user’s actual calorie expenditure and food intake.
Today, healthcare cost pressures, wireless connectivity and data interoperability initiatives are converging to write a new chapter in body monitoring. Just a few months ago, ABI Research forecast a 52% CAGR in the wearable sensor market through 2017 (up from last year’s 47% prediction), fueled in part by the need to put the brakes on escalating healthcare expenses.
ABI expects body monitoring device shipments to surge from 18+ million in 2011 to more than 167 million in 2017, with specific products targeting home monitoring, remote patient management and professional on-site healthcare as well as continued growth in the traditional sports / fitness / wellness segment.
This is precisely the vision that has been driving BodyMedia since we began developing body monitoring technology since 1999. We have firmly established ourselves in the weight management market with marquee partners like Jillian Michaels and Jenny Craig as well as active use by individual physicians and weight loss counselors, but we recognized long ago that our platform would also provide a mechanism for monitoring specific medical conditions.
With a just-announced $12 million round of funding led by Comcast Ventures, we are turning our focus to developing new applications for markets such as diabetes management, sleep disorders, and remote elder care and safety. We believe we can help usher in a new era in health self-help that will both improve wellbeing and contribute to bringing healthcare costs in check.
A few months ago, Michael Yang wrote in this blog about why Comcast Ventures is interested in investing in healthcare innovation. Clearly, they understand the role that wireless body monitoring can play in that innovation. It’s a potential game changer in the most important game of all: healthy living.
Christine Robins is CEO of BodyMedia, Inc., a new Comcast Ventures portfolio company.