Wearable medical devices market to blossom

The market for wearable medical devices will reach more than 100 million units annually by 2016 as a range of factors combine over the next five years to drive consumer and healthcare adoption, according to ABI Research.

These devices, ranging from heart rate monitors for measuring an individual’s performance during sports to wearable blood glucose meters, will all enable greater detail in tracking, monitoring and care – often through connections provided by mobile phones.

Ultra-low power wireless technologies such as single mode Bluetooth 4.0, existing proprietary and the planned 802.15.6 specifications are combining with mobile handsets and social networking applications to drive adoption of a new generation of body-worn sensors. These sensors can automate details on an individual’s activities to inform friends and drive advice and feedback.

“A number of short range wireless protocols are jostling for position in this emerging market and they line up against traditional tethered connectivity such as a USB cable to a computer as well as emerging M2M offerings,” said Jonathan Collins, ABI’s principal analyst for wireless healthcare and M2M.

While the sports and fitness market has been embedding proprietary short-range wireless connectivity in devices for many years, it has remained a niche market. The market is now reaching a key growth period with support and commitment to standardised specifications.

The professional healthcare market is also starting to look at the potential for embedded wireless communications in wearable devices for in-hospital and remote patient care.

ABI Research’s report, “Wireless Health and Fitness,” assesses the market opportunity for wireless enabled devices and communications within the home and consumer market. Analysis and forecasts are split across three broad categories: sports, fitness and wellbeing; home monitoring; and remote patient monitoring.

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