The quantification of wireless wellness

By Brian Dolan
01:57 am

Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsPrevention is at the heart of much of the national health reform discussion, but it all starts with fitness and wellness -- that's true for the emerging wireless health industry, too.

"Many believe that one of the earliest areas of wireless health that will really pop is the fitness and wellness side of it," Rob Mesirow, Vice President of the wireless association CTIA told MobiHealthNews in an interview this week. "That's mainly because there is less regulation on the fitness and wellness side of wireless health."

A dedicated, wireless-enabled fitness device also just commercially launched this week: Fitbit is an activity and calorie tracking device small enough to clip on to the user’s clothing. Fitbit uses an internal motion detector to track the wearer’s movement, sleep time and calorie burn during both the day and night. The device costs $99.

For those looking to live the quantified life, Fitbit can tell you the amount of steps you took today, miles traveled, calories burned, calories consumed, time you went to bed, time it took you to actually fall asleep, number of times you woke up during the night, total time in bed,  and actual time sleeping.

Fitbit is just the latest piece of evidence that supports Mesirow's point. Here's a run down of the fitness and wellness solutions and studies that signal a building momentum for wireless wellness:

  • Just a few weeks ago, Verizon Wireless began promoting its mobile fitness applications -- that's right, apps aren't just for smartphones: "Summer is ending and there is no better time to begin healthy habits," the carrier's press release stated. "Verizon Wireless customers can access multiple applications that help them stay healthy and in shape using their wireless phones." Here's a brief on the apps Verizon Wireless promoted.
  • According to a survey of K-12 teachers conducted by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and Polar, 51 percent of teachers said technology increases student motivation during physical education classes. About 60 percent of teachers used the data from health technology like pedometers, heart rate monitors or other devices for their assessment and grading. The PE class looks ripe for the quantified wellness movement.
  • While reporting its second quarter results, the location-based (GPS) technology company Garmin's Chairman and CEO Dr. Min Kao, noted that the outdoor/fitness segment of its product portfolio has been the ”most resilient business in this down economy.” Of all the location-based services on the market -- it was fitness that had been least affected by the down economy.
  • Another big name brand has recognized the value of a wellness mobile application: Weight Watchers. David Kirchhoff, Weight Watchers’ president and CEO announced recently that Weight Watchers will soon submit an iPhone application to Apple in an effort to provide “convenience and information on demand to further [members'] weight-loss success and to further modernize the Weight Watchers’ brand.” We hope the company pursues a multi-platform approach, but the iPhone is a good start, nonetheless. More
  • Finally, the market opportunity: A recent ABI Research report estimated that wearable wireless sensors are set to grow to more than 400 million devices by 2014 largely thanks to wellness and fitness solutions. “These are very early days for wearable wireless sensors in the healthcare market, but a number of factors are coming together to support strong growth over the next five years,” ABI Research principle analyst Jonathan Collins said in a statement. “Technology and product development, wireless protocol standardization, and the potential already seen in sports and fitness monitoring will help drive investment in the healthcare market.”
  • It's early days for wireless health, but fitness is -- as expected -- sprinting out in front.


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