Your future mobile health device isn’t your phone, it’s your watch

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The age of the smartwatch is approaching, and it represents a significant potential shift in the consumer mobile health space.  These wearable, multi-functional devices have the potential to supplant mobile phones and existing wearable health devices as the central platform for mobile health.  There are already a few smartwatches on the market today, notably Pebble, Martian and MetaWatch Strata, and the market is getting increasing attention as several major technology players currently have devices in development.  Samsung and LG recently confirmed that they are developing smartwatches, and both Apple and Google are reported to be developing them as well.

These wearable devices have several characteristics that make them ideal for use in health management:

Consumers will almost always have a device on them

While mobile phones are becoming ubiquitous, there are scenarios where consumers are less likely to carry them (e.g., while being active).  With wearable technology, consumers will likely rarely be without their device.  This enables near 24/7 accessibility of information, communication and monitoring of activity (e.g., pedometer, heart rate, sleep).

Consumers will view their devices more frequently

Messages and displays of information on smartwatches are less disruptive than on mobile phones.  A quick glance is all that is required to view the screen.  This more constant, less intrusive communication is useful for apps that rely on frequent communication, such as those directed towards patient adherence.

Smartwatches are smarter than current wearables

Consumers are already adopting health-focused wearable devices, for example Fitbit and Nike fuelband.  The computing power, large display and presumed use of powerful operating systems (e.g., Android and iOS) will provide smartwatches with more advanced functionality than current wearables.

The smartwatch is an exciting new platform for mobile health.  It will be interesting to see how quickly consumers adopt them, and how their wearable computing power will best be leveraged to improve health.

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