2022 has been a year of change. For many of us, returning to ‘normal life’ after the pandemic has brought about a shift in focus towards how we sustain the upkeep of our health and wellbeing. We have awakened from lockdowns and social distancing with a new sense of personal ownership over our holistic health.
As a society, this change has resulted in an increase in gym memberships and a surge in funding for HealthTech companies, including the new HTRI fund of £7million for UK Healthtech SMEs. It has also fuelled an international increase in the use of wearable technology within both the medical, and health and wellbeing sectors.
During 2022, Thrive has once again dedicated itself to finding new ways of monitoring, preventing and treating both physical, and mental ailments. Ideas like technologically advanced wound care recovery, as well as non-invasive glucose monitoring, have become hot topics in the past 12 months. And we are finding our passion for health-centred wearables now, more than ever, reflected by our clients. With innovators presenting us with concepts for devices that will globally impact our health care services and help ease the suffering of millions of people.
To celebrate all things wearable, we are taking you through our top 5 wearable tech trends to come out of 2022; and examining the impact they have on our health and wellbeing.
Our thriving five
1. Recovery/Injury wearables
Dramatic advancements in our ability to monitor motion, load and inertia in the human body have meant that the rehabilitation and injury prevention wearable industry has exploded in the last 12 months. Using force-based and nanomaterial sensors we can now track precisely how our bodies are moving; our muscles are growing and how we are responding to treatments.
These technologies will no doubt aid the work of many health professionals such as Physios, Doctors, Osteopaths, Personal Trainers, Athletes and more.
Within wound recovery, the impact this tech may have within the NHS can also not be ignored. With a reported £8.3 billion being spent on wound care in 2017 / 2018, the prospect that we can more effectively care for and monitor open wounds, and how our bodies are responding to the healing process, is a comforting one. The advantages of this sort of wearable technology are far reaching and they are sure to open doors to new levels of accomplishment in many sectors.
2. Menstruation tracking and management
We cannot talk about holistic wellbeing without including a trend that encompasses one of the biggest issues in many people's lives. It is said that people who menstruate are likely to lose 9.3 days, annually, to period pains or related symptoms of their cycle. This figure is frighteningly high and although menstruation life-cycles are part of our existence, there is still a large gap in knowledge about how it affects certain aspects of our lives. For instance, physical training, diet, sleep, travel and stress, all contribute to how people experience their cycles.
With new appreciation for the amount of factors that weigh in on this, it seems only right to get wearable tech involved. In 2022 we saw companies allowing individuals to track symptoms, menstruation dates, temperature, ovulation, fertility and much more. At Thrive, we see this as a win for the use of sensor and AI technology, and the overall advancement of femtech.
3. Posture analysis
In an article earlier this year, Forbes announced that poor posture has now been linked to a series of health problems. Including back and neck pain, shallow breathing, chronic disabilities and low mood. As a team focused on positively impacting global health and wellbeing, the issue of poor posture is one at the forefront of our minds. We have been thrilled to see a focus on posture and gait analysis wearables developing this year. These devices often combine many areas of expertise, including; smart fabrics, haptics, app development, bluetooth connectivity and complex algorithms (luckily, we’re experts in all those fields).
With portable devices providing real time feedback we are now able to better understand our posture and gait. Where previously regular trips to an Osteopath or Physiotherapist would be the only route to recovery for these issues, we are now presented with solutions that can prompt us throughout the day and provide us with key insights for our Physicians. This technology is key to improving our functional mobility - which could lead to the prevention of falls in the elderly, a reduction in long term mobility issues and even have a positive impact on mental health. This is one we see continuing to develop in 2023.
4. Mental health wearables
We believe mental health is on par with our physical well being. Some of our longest standing relationships are built with companies whose sole focus is on improving people's day to day mental health.
The NHS is now faced with a waitlist of 1.2 million people, all waiting for community mental health care due to underfunding and the overwhelming demand for support. At Thrive we feel wearable tech could be one way in which we can combat this waitlist and provide people with access to personalised support as a form of treatment for many mental health conditions.
Mental health devices have often incorporated nerve stimulation, AI and ECG monitoring to help people manage their symptoms, but now we see something new on the horizon to add to our tool kit in the form of Electrodermal Activity (EDA) - or skin sensing technology. It works by monitoring our skin for changes in our sweat. This is proven to have a direct link to our brain where we process our emotions, and can tell us a lot more about what’s going on in our central nervous system (CNS), before we are even aware of the changes.
Of course, mental health is complex, and we don't believe we can tackle it with wearables alone, but if we can help people take a step towards managing their stress levels, or understanding their emotions - we’re all for it.
5. Diabetes management
It is predicted that last year 8.4 million people were suffering from Type 1 Diabetes. This figure is set to grow exponentially to a massive 17.4 million by 2040. Not only is the disease incredibly life altering with extreme adverse effects; which can include vision changes, weight loss, constant hunger and fatigue. But it also needs constant monitoring and management. Though there are already multiple Glucose Monitoring devices on the market, the advancement in sensor technology in the wearable space has led to an increase of non-invasive monitoring solutions.
One way data can be gathered is by using light - this technique would entail shining a beam of light onto a person’s skin and measuring how much of this was absorbed by glucose. Alongside this, approaches that include contact lenses have also been explored; involving the testing of the liquid inside your eye. These approaches however, still require work and further testing. Our new personal favourite method would be via a Sweat Patch Sensor - although this too requires further testing and research - the patch method would allow for a multitude of different form factors to be applied, allowing for further control and customisation over monitoring for the individual.
We envisage a route to Glucose Monitoring where the individuals Glucose levels are just one figure provided alongside a range of other physiological measurements. This would allow for the user to have a better view of their whole-body-health, something that is incredibly important when dealing with a disease that can affect your whole body.
In conclusion, at Thrive Wearables, we champion companies and innovators who are trying to tackle the big issues in our lives. Issues like Cancer, Diabetes, Fertility and Depression. 2022 has seen some major advances in our journey to managing and better treating these conditions and we are optimistic that this is only the beginning.
In 2023, we want to meet more innovators, change makers, and people with big ideas.
Do you require access to specialist software developers? Need help and advice on grant applications or a wearable product development roadmap to help take your device to mass production? We’ve got all bases covered and we cannot wait to hear from you.
External links used for research: https://gymdesk.com/blog/gym-membership-statistics/
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