Spire's discreet wearable turns any clothes into continuous health monitors

By Dave Muoio
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San Francisco-based Spire is looking to take the work out of wearables. Instead of a device that needs to be regularly removed, recharged, or otherwise adjusted, the company’s newly announced sensor can remain unobtrusively attached to any article of clothing with no need to worry about battery life or the laundry machine.

“In our view, the fundamental user experience problem that wearables face is that it’s another thing to wear … and that becomes particularly acute when you’re talking about using wearables in more healthcare settings,” Jonathan Palley, CEO and cofounder of Spire, told MobiHealthNews. “It’s all about eliminating the friction. This morning I got up, put on my clothes, and that was it. I didn’t ever have to think about wearing the device, putting it on, anything like that.”

The Spire Health Tag is sold in packs of three ($99), eight ($199), and 15 ($299), and is intended to be attached to multiple articles of clothing. Each device can run for nearly two years without needing to recharge and, according to Spire, is durable enough to survive regular wear and cleaning. Palley said that these features allow his company’s small, discreet device to fulfill the convenience promises of smart clothing, but without the need to wear specific outfits.

“We don’t think [smart clothes] make sense, because we all wear different clothing. There’s a good chance you and I have the same phone — we almost certainly don’t have the same wardrobe,” “So we said ‘Can we take your existing clothes and make them smart?’ And that’s what we’ve done.”

Much like its previous clip-on wearable, the Health Tag primarily focuses on a user’s breathing to continuously record stress and tension and activity. But along with its out of sight, out of mind design approach, Palley said that the new device’s sensors have also been improved to include sleep and heart rate tracking, as well as more advanced analyses of respiratory health.

“Respiratory-related diseases are about 25 percent of the healthcare spending in the US,” he said. “So [a] massive, massive problem set, and there really hasn’t been continuous, at-home, through-the-day active respiratory sensing until Spire. That’s the core focus of our unique sensors.”

Users can view the data from these sensors through Spire Health Tag’s companion app, and here again Palley stressed the importance of an unobtrusive health product. The software is partitioned into separate “programs” focusing on specific goals such as improving sleep, increasing activity, or reducing tension. Users choose which program they are interested in actively tracking, and the system will only alert them when notable patterns related to that area are identified.

“This is collecting so much data, we said ‘we’ve got to make sure that it’s only telling you things and interrupting your life when it’s relevant to you. Otherwise, you just shouldn’t ever think about it,’” Palley said. “That starts in the app.”

The app is also capable of analyzing these data patterns to suggest personalized behavior changes to the user. These notifications contain specific activities suggestions and are presented alongside metrics collected throughout the day, a strategy which Palley said is much more effective than a simple blanket statement.

“We’re able to help people sleep by helping them understand what they can do during the day," he said. “When you just tell someone ‘Hey, you should go exercise,' it’s ‘Yeah, yeah, I’ve got enough stuff to do.’ … When you put it in context, it becomes conceptually meaningful, conceptually helpful to drive those kinds of positive behaviors.”

Spire Health Tag and its companion app are launching as a wellness offering for consumers, but the company isn’t ruling out a future in direct healthcare applications. Palley noted that Spire’s previous device was frequently recommended to patients by their mental health specialists, and he alluded preliminary talks with providers on the possibilities of someday monitoring stress or respiratory health.

“Beyond these consumer wellness applications, this is a very accurate respiratory monitor … and there’s a log of applications across a range of chronic respiratory diseases that we are working on, that we’re actively talking to partners about, and that this could be used for,” he said. “Once you get that patient to put [it] on their clothes, you never have to worry about convincing them to wear it again. The data is just there.”