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Healthcare & Personal Devices

Market Trends Personal Healthcare and Fitness Introduction (LC)

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Market trends: healthcare and wearables

Read about the most exciting trends in the healthcare & wearables market:


Health and fitness

Within a few years, small electronic devices have introduced a veritable revolution in personal training

Suddenly, due to the low-cost availability of pulse measurement devices non-professionals have been able to accurately implement their individual training plans and without major expense. In general, a pulse measurement device comprises a measurement belt worn around the chest and a display unit in the format of a wristwatch (sports watch), where the communication between these two parts is wireless - currently mainly based on the ANT(+) standard, but in future, increasingly, via BLE (Bluetooth low energy). With increasingly accurate sensors, new possibilities are opening up all the time. Electronic hearing aids have been around for decades. Moreover, since digital technology has made its entrance in standard products it has been possible to adapt hearing aids much more individually to specific hearing problems. For example, it is possible to realise a pulse oximeter on a purely optical basis, which can take place in a sports watch and measures the pulse and the blood oxygen saturation. A bracelet pulse oximeter radiates light into the skin with an LED and measures the reflections, in order, among other things, to detect the pulse beat – in the same way that a doctor measures oxygen saturation with a clip on your finger.

Healthcare & Wearables Long Copy (LC)

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This type of watch uses the same technology, but requires a higher current for the LED than a conventional sports watch. The reflection varies according to the blood oxygen content, because blood varies in thickness and also in colour. Since the chest belt of a conventional heart rate monitor is not comfortable for some athletes, mostly runners, a bracelet pulse oximeter is a real alternative to the classic pulse measuring device. EBV Elektronik supports the new devices, amongst others with the appropriate front-end and microcontroller chips. The new sports watches form a transitional product area before smart watches that are currently all the rage and offer enhanced communication options. The design of the new sports watch, in addition to the features per se and a long battery life (charge), includes the possibility of transferring the data to an external device or communicate with a smartphone app, which plays a significant role. Thus, it may be sensible, for example, for energy-consumption for format related reasons, not to establish a connection between the sports watch and the smartphone and only transfer the data to the smartphone via Bluetooth (low energy) or NFC at the end of the period of exercise. Using the appropriate wireless underwater radio solution, divers can also obtain current information about their heart rate, oxygen saturation, etc., on their own dive computer - in addition to standard information such as current depth, bottom time (remaining), tank pressure, etc. Whether above or (at an increased cost) under water: with the appropriate sensors, algorithms, and sensor data fusion, completely new applications can be realised, with various sensors, up to and including the body Area Network (BAN). Sensors for acceleration, relative humidity and temperature, gyrometers and magnetometers, etc., can be integrated into a new system. If necessary, GPS functionality and corresponding applications can also be added. EBV Elektronik provides support for such systems using a variety of sensors, front-end ICs microcontrollers and supplementary semiconductors. It is not only athletes in the classical sense who benefit from the new electronic sensor devices and apps. Even people who have had restricted mobility up to now due to their high body mass are able to discover a new freedom of movement and even lose weight, using an appropriate activity monitor, a sensor system (for example, pedometers, accelerometers and position sensors), coupled to a creative smartphone app. All sensor elements that allow a logical connection to a smartphone with an informative app, are currently experiencing a boom. Even at the International CES 2013 in Las Vegas, such apps and sensors caused a great sensation and with the CES 2014, consumer awareness of such gadgets will increase even more. However, the area of ‘Personal Health & Fitness’ also includes devices that are used for preventative medicine, including thermometers, body scales, simple blood-pressure and blood glucose monitors as well as professional devices for physical activity monitoring. Currently, these are still devices that operate independently, but the trend is for data transmission over wireless interfaces such as BLE to a smartphone. However, since not all diabetics have a smartphone, there will always be both types: autonomous and networked devices. In particular, older people often only want to push a button and prefer to hand over a device every two weeks to the doctor who will look at the data, rather than to evaluate the data themselves on the smartphone using an app.

Professional portable

In the mobile cardiac monitor market, ECG machines are the most prominent segment, contributing 87% to the mobile cardiac monitor market

An ECG machine is the basic diagnostic tool used to detect various kinds of heart diseases. The prominent trend in this market is the use of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to leverage connectivity anywhere. The use of multiple sensors to make multi-parameter sensing medical monitors at low costs is another important trend in this market. While users constantly use devices in the ‘Personal Health & Fitness’ area under their own control, they might also use Home Portable Medical Devices under the guidance of doctor. Insulin pumps fall into this category as well as exact blood-glucose monitors and long-term ECG measurement devices or devices for monitoring blood pressure over an extended period of time. This equipment is always used in the home environment.

Telehealth and Telecare

Mobile devices quickly deliver medical records and other informations from the patient directly into the hands of the doctor, supporting physicians and other members of the health care team

The mobile healthcare market incorporates portable healthcare products with integrated wireless communication capabilities (various types of WLAN and BT). These products are generally used for measuring and monitoring data in combination with display or representation of the data on a mobile computing device, typically a smart-phone or a tablet. Doctors, nurses and hospital administrators are discovering that mobile technology can be used in a variety of practical and efficient ways to improve administrative, technical and medical tasks. If devices from the ‘Home Portable Medical Devices’ area such as blood glucose monitors or measurement devices for long-term recording of blood pressure, ECG, etc., have an additional interface for communication with the doctor (via secure Internet connections), then they belong to the Telehealth category.