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Transforming IoT into IoMe (internet of me) via smart garments

IoT is the ability to connect everyday objects directly to the internet or smartphone whereby enabling these objects to send and receive data and interact with the user. Now, as often happens with hyped up new technologies, current products and innovations that aren’t playing within this space seem simply irrelevant. The natural progression has been to move from smart products for industrial, office, home and now for car usage scenarios, to more humanized smart products for the individual.

Most wearable products so far have taken the form of IoT bracelets and watches. These solutions need to be more accurate, wearable, personalized, actionable on an individual basis, and more meaningful than step counting. This allows for a more specific and interesting approach to reaching our own health and fitness goals. According to a study recently published by JAMA Cardiology, people should care about the accuracy of their wearable devices, specifically heart rate (HR) monitors. This is especially important when people rely on these monitors to stay within physician-recommended safe HR thresholds during rehabilitation or when exercising. Therefore, electrode-containing chest monitors should be used when accurate HR measurement is imperative.

The new study states, “While the accuracy of chest strap, electrode-based HR monitors has been confirmed, the accuracy of wrist-worn, optically based HR monitors is uncertain.” Some of the individual wrist-worn devices used in the treadmill study overestimated or underestimated heart rate by 50 bpm or more when, according to the electrocardiograph, heart rate was in the 120-130 bpm range. The objective of this study was to assess the accuracy of four popular HR wrist-worn devices: Apple Watch (Apple), Mio Alpha (Mio Global), Fitbit Charge HR (Fitbit) and Basis Peak (Intel). After recording 1,773 HR values across all four devices, the investigators found, when compared with an electrocardiogram, the HR monitors had variable accuracy. While the Basis Peak overestimated HR during moderate exercise, the Fitbit Charge HR underestimated HR during more-vigorous exercise. Broad variability was recorded across the spectrum of midrange HRs during exercise. The Apple Watch and Mio Fuse had 95% of values within -27 bpm and +29 bpm of the electrocardiogram, whereas Fitbit Charge HR had 95% of values within -34 bpm and +39 bpm, and the corresponding values for Intel’s Basis Peak were within -39 bpm and +33 bpm.

The authors of the JAMA Cardiology study found variable accuracy among wrist-worn HR monitors and determined that no wrist-based monitor achieved the accuracy of a chest strap-based monitor. This is one of the key reasons why some companies, including Sensoria where I work, have decided to embed quality electrodes directly into your t-shirt and sports bra and pair it with a high-quality Bluetooth Smart heart rate monitoring module. We have coined a term for this more-direct connection of body to network: “the internet of me,” or IoMe.

IoMe for sports and fitness

IoMe is about wearing biometric sensing garments that are comfortable and washable, and measure specific metrics that are important to the individual. These garments or accessories are utilizing embedded sensor technologies that provide health and fitness metrics to the end consumer in real time. These garments will replace plastics of wrist-worn wearable devices by becoming an ultra-personal, transparent wearable computer. Over time these sensors will become so small that they will disappear to the human eye and will become ubiquitous to the user/wearer. These new form factors will also make it easier to provide contextually relevant data and turn that data into wisdom for the user. As an example, if I am wearing a pair of ski boots or a pair of soccer shoes it is quite clear what activity I am embarking upon, making it easier to provide a more profound and meaningful user experience to the wearer and potentially user feedback to the brand that created that product.

The IoMe transformation

This is the level of personalization that is needed to truly transform the wearable industry. It begins with the notion that every single garment has the capability to become a computer. It is a big assumption, but it is happening today. It’s possible to couple a smart sock with an app that provides a graphical trend analysis on key metrics that are most important to a runner.

IoMe for healthcare

In terms of this sector, sensor technology is being utilized in a vast number of scenarios from cardiology to neurological disease progression and early detection.

As an example, it is estimated that at least one in 100,000 athletes are struck by exercise-related sudden cardiac arrest during a year. If there are no CPR trained bystanders and nobody knows the person is in real trouble, nobody can come and help, and definitely not within a few minutes. Ultimately, cardiac arrest makes the subject unconscious within a few seconds.

Nicola Gaibazzi, MD and Cardiologist at University of Parma Hospital in Italy, worked with a team of cardiologists and Sensoria to develop a patent-pending algorithm called Heart Sentinel™. This new technology constantly monitors the user’s probability of cardiac irregularities during exercise, offers a real-time alert countdown to confirm that he or she is still conscious, and alerts selected family or friends through text message, urging them to seek help or forwarding their GPS coordinates to the rescue team.

Sophisticated, differentiated wearables will also enable the monitoring of patients remotely, reducing costs and readmissions. There are many synergies between wearable solutions companies and pharmaceutical companies, research institutions and academia to mention a few. I am confident that we will see ground-breaking, cutting-edge collaborations between these different entities in the near future.

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