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Making an Impact: The Future of Connected Devices

Posted on November 7, 2017, by Dr. Sunny Kumar

A few years ago, I met with a company that had designed a consumer grade technology to monitor the pattern and frequency of leg muscle contractions during cycling. The information would be fed back in real time to the individuals’ mobile device. The rationale for this was, knowledge of these parameters could improve performance and reduce injury. At the time, I recall thinking this was a “cool” innovation, but with limited impact.

Around the same time, I was at my doctor’s office for a check up and he asked me to place my finger on his mobile phone so he could check my pulse rate in real time. I asked him if he trusted a consumer grade device and he turned to me and said, “this is state of the art”— while he would not rely on it solely, the information from such devices could be used in conjunction with other medical grade technologies to provide a more holistic picture of the patient. At the time, I similarly thought that was “cool,” but with limited impact.

Fast forward to today. We’ve see an explosion of connected consumer smart devices and apps designed to monitor various physiologic parameters for health and wellness. What strikes me is that while I initially thought these technologies had limited impact, the opposite is true today.

Such solutions are becoming more commonly used among some Canadians, with price and general interest being a key barrier for realizing broad consumer use across market segments, as the recent “Diffusion of Smart Devices for Health in Canada” report highlights. Emerging research has shown that individual awareness of various physiologic parameters, vital signs or feedback on how one’s body responds to exercise or day-to-day physical activities may act as a key influencer of behavioural change.  

Apps and connected devices offer real-time — and in many cases — historical trending feedback to support and motivate healthy behaviours, reduce injury, or via informed prompts or reminders, effectively manage a number of facets of living with — or vulnerability to — a chronic condition. Used in partnership with one’s healthcare provider or integrated with health promotion programs, health apps and connected devices have also shown value. Behaviour modification is difficult to achieve, but connected consumer devices appear to be a good partner on this journey. I’ll have to ask my doctor next time I visit if there’s tracking data we can integrate into helping me reach my health goals. 

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Dr. Sunny KumarDr. Sunny Kumar leads the national innovation ecosystem initiative at Infoway.

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