How to Create Wearables People Actually Want to Use

As the healthcare industry continues to embrace wearable technology, product developers are challenged to design medical-grade devices that are small and unobtrusive enough for people to actually use, while also powerful enough to collect and send data in a way that is actionable.

Amanda Pedersen

MC10's BioStampRC enables study subjects to go about heir daily routine while the device captures data, and integrates it into the researcher's workflow through tablet and web applications.

 

It's no secret that wearable devices are playing an increasingly prominent role in modern living. As consumers, we use wearable lifestyle devices to track how many steps we take in a day, our sleep patterns, heart rate, and so much more. Wearables can also help doctors and patients work more effectively together by sharing actionable data, such as blood glucose levels, or heart rhythm data.

Milan Raj, director of advanced technology at MC10, will discuss leveraging bioinspired microfluidic sensors for lifestyle and medical-grade wearables at the BIOMEDevice Boston conference and expo, May 3-4, 2017.

For Milan Raj, the opportunity to design products that help people improve their health is what led him to join MC10 in 2013. The Lexington, MA-based wearable technology firm designs products that are thin and flexible, and built to stretch, bend, and twist with the person wearing it. Raj leads MC10's advanced technology engineering team with a focus on designing epidermal health monitoring devices.

"What I like to do is create something novel, something I know will benefit a lot of people, and actually see the end result of that," Raj told Qmed.

When asked about current trends in the wearable technology sector, Raj said the spectrum of wearable technology products is shrinking as the two ends of the spectrum - consumer wearables and medical wearables - are starting to converge.

The key metrics driving the success of wearable technology are power, battery size, and usability, Raj said. For a device to truly be successful, he said, it needs to be unobtrusive, easy to use, and require a low level of energy.

The challenge, however, is that designing a device that is unobtrusive and easy enough to use on a daily basis often comes with a lot of tradeoffs in terms of the type of sensors that are used, and what the product can actually do.

Raj said this is particularly challenging on the medical end of the wearables spectrum. "It all goes back to, 'how do we take that medical-grade equipment and shrink it to make it feasible on a wearable device?'" he said.

And getting patients to use the device is only one part of the equation. Once the person has incorporated the device into their daily life and is using it to collect data, the next step is to take push all of that data to the end user and their caregiver to provide a much broader picture of the patient's health, Raj said.

MC10 approaches these needs by using a software platform that includes mobile interfaces, cloud storage, and analytical tools for an end-to-end system. That enables the company to create products capable of handling a high volume of data, with the help of big data analytics and machine learning tools, and translating that data into a language humans can understand.

The company's BioStampRC, for example, is a body-worn sensor designed for study subjects to go about their daily routine while the device captures data, and integrates it into the researcher's workflow through tablet and web applications.

Amanda Pedersen is Qmed's news editor. Contact her at [email protected].

 

[Image credit: MC10 Inc.]

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