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Despite the initial hype surrounding it, the market for fitness and health-tracking wearable technology has not taken off to the extent that many analysts predicted.
The fortunes of Fitbit are a good example of this. When the fitness band manufacturer launched an IPO in 2015, on the back of three consecutive years of triple digit sales growth, Wall Street optimism pushed the share price up immediately from its listing price of $20, to nearly $30, on the first day of trading.
Today, the price of Fitbit shares has dropped below $6. This can be partially explained by competitors like Garmin, Xiaomi, and Apple and Samsung smartwatches crowding the marketplace, which has seen Fitbit's share of the market drop below 15 percent. But the real underlying problem has been the failure of wearable tech manufacturers to capture the public's attention, by solving society's problems, like smartphones can, and do.
A longstanding issue with wearables has been that the manufacturer's vision has not been broad enough. Most wearable fitness monitoring devices perform a set of relatively straightforward tasks. Besides the same or similar functions that we are happy to access via our smartphones, wearables are chiefly associated with monitoring the number of steps we take, the number of hours we sleep for, and keeping track of our heart rate.
On its own, this information is not as valuable as perhaps the manufacturers expected it would be.
Does this spell the end for the wearable fitness monitoring market, or is there more to come from wearable technology?
Eterly can seamlessly integrate with wearables like Fitbit, or Apple Watch, to gather and store information, for the purposes of health and fitness tracking. But it also promotes healthy longevity and contributes to research into anti-aging, P3 Medicine and personalised health. There is plenty more to come.
I predict the next generation of wearable apps will make a huge difference both to public sentiment and to market growth, because they are being designed with users' holistic and long-term health and wellness in mind.
This excellent report from Deep Knowledge Ventures will tell you everything that you need to know about the future of Mobile Health apps that leverages wearable technology. It explains how we have moved from first generation, to second and even into a third generation of wearable based apps.
With Leveraging Artificial Intelligence, Deep Tech, Machine Learning and Blockchain technologies, these devices will have the power to learn about users on a deeply personal level, help them micro-manage every aspect of their healthy lives, and maybe even extend their healthy lifespans.
It has taken time to develop the technology required to give wearable monitoring devices this extra dimension of usefulness, but now it is almost here.
The next wave of wearable apps will not only monitor our activity, they will pass the data they collect on to apps, like Eterly, that will interpret this information in useful ways. This is becoming possible thanks to developments in the above-mentioned technologies, and thanks to a shift change in the way that we think about healthcare today.
AI is enabling wearable devices to interact with users in a more meaningful way. A device may record our resting heart rate, for example, and be able to compare it with a dataset comprised of millions of other heart rate readings, letting us know how we compare to the median average, or a specific demographic group, and what the implications of our current readings are.
Or, a device may have the power to compare the amount of exercise we are doing versus the amount of sleep we are getting, and independently conclude and advise us that these two measurements are out of sync, upsetting our natural biorhythms.
Next generation apps that integrate with wearables will be able to gather data not just about steps, sleep, and heart rate, but also about diet, mood, and even medical health history.
At Eterly, for example, we use an AI-driven personal assistant to prompt for more in-depth information, medical health records. For example, family life, personal goals and even genome sequencing.
This kind of sensitive information needs to be protected and only shared with third parties if the user is happy to do so. Luckily, this is exactly what "permissioned" and "permissionless" distributed ledger technology has been designed to do.
Eterly will use sophisticated AI, machine learning and deep learning techniques to calculate a unique "Longevity Score" for every user, based on millions of different data points, observations and a vast database of medical research.
The app will assess users' health and fitness at a more granular level than ever before and make smart actionable recommendations about how users can optimise every aspect of their healthy lives. This will be done via a blockchain based back end storage facility, or ecosystem of healthy longevity, being developed by our partner, Longevity United.
We can even use this ecosystem, which will integrate cutting edge medical science and research, to help users identify areas of potential weaknesses or vulnerabilities when it comes to their health, and suggest what course of action to take.
Such an early warning system could help to identify signs of disease or aging, and by treating these symptoms at the earliest possible stage, we can often prevent the illness taking hold and becoming life threatening.
In keeping with blockchain based projects, Longevity United will be funded by a token sale and the issue of Longevity Tokens, which users will be able to mine by completing personalised health and fitness plans. Using these tokens will discover longevity related products and services in a planned Open Marketplace, or "Amazon of Health."
But I digress.
To summarise, next generation wearable technology can be developed so that it is proactive, not reactive. Powered by AI, wearables can become like virtual personal trainers. It may sound far-fetched, even a little scary, perhaps, but it should not be alarming.
It is simply that as we learn to store information more efficiently, and analyse it faster, we can deliver more advanced products and make more informed diagnoses. IBM Watson is a good example of this, or Google Deep Mind.
Do you trust technology to look after your health?
It's important to remember that these new technologies cannot necessarily be substituted for more traditional methods of healthcare, but as with IBM Watson, they can be used to complement them. The pressure on the healthcare industry, doctors, surgeons, and even the pharma industry is immense and unyielding.
It can, and will be alleviated by advanced technologies such as Neural Networks, and deep learning algorithms. The results of which, can be shown to the end user in the form of easy-to-follow advice, dispensed by an intelligent app.
Health and fitness app usage grew by more 330 percent in the last three years, according to research by Flurry Analytics. It also shows very high retention rates, with over 75 percent of active users opening their health and fitness app at least two times a week. More than 25 percent of users access their fitness apps more than ten times a week.
This usage will trickle down into wearable tech, which is the most convenient way to carry out the essential monitoring work required by third generation mobile health apps, in order for them to work effectively.
Your watch will be listening to your heart rate, and recording your steps, with your permission of course. In the future, however, it will have much more to tell you than the time of day.