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The Convergence of Consumer Wearables and Medical Devices

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There is a clear convergence occurring between the consumer wearables and health/medical device markets. Just look at the recent announcements and products from Apple, Fitbit, Huawei, Samsung and other leaders in the consumer wearables sector. They are all moving toward becoming personal health devices. In addition, traditional health/medical device companies are now building devices intended to be worn outside a medical facility but continuing to feed medical-grade data back into a patient treatment workflow.

Speaker: Ryan Kraudel, Valencell

As an example, this trend can be seen in what is going on in your ear! According to Gartner Research, ear-worn devices (headphones, earbuds, hearing aids, etc.) are expected to be the largest category of wearable devices by 2022, even more than smartwatches. Ear-worn devices are a fascinating microcosm of the broader convergence of consumer electronics and medical devices. Consumer “hearables” device makers like Bose, Sennheiser, and Huawei are continuing to add hearing augmentation capabilities to their devices, in addition to great audio experiences. In parallel, hearing aid companies like Starkey (one of the big 6 hearing aid companies) have announced adding capabilities to their latest hearing aids like activity tracking, fall detection, and heart rate monitoring, which has traditionally been the domain of consumer wearables.

This convergence is being driven by numerous market trends that are accelerating the adoption of hearables:

  1. Voice assistants like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri are perfect extensions of hearables and hearing aids, which opens up significant new capabilities for hearables.
  2. Much of the social stigma with wearing earbuds or headphones for long periods of time is now gone, thanks to Apple Airpods and many other true wireless earbuds.
  3. Scientific research has shown the comorbidities associated with hearing loss are significant – 3X higher risk of cardiovascular disease, 3X higher risk of diabetes, 32% higher risk of hospitalization, and more.
  4. The ear is one of the best places on the body for biometric measurements, which can help identify and mediate many of the comorbidities associated with hearing loss.

These trends have opened up new markets and user bases for both categories of companies, and this is just the beginning. This session will take the audience on an intriguing journey through the convergence of consumer wearables and medical devices with specific examples in hearables and hearing health.

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