Trends: The Internet of Humans (not Things)—Sensors, Health, Fitness, & Healthcare

March 10, 2015 Adam Bloom


Human sensors will create vast streams of big data throughout our lives, particularly when we consider matching health activity with the human genome or social media.

The Internet of Humans (IoH) might be a bigger part of the Internet of Things (IoT) than people think, and Pivotal experts are quite enthusiastic about the possibilities with data science, mobile apps, and big data.

As shared in this article, market statistics, sensor trends, and innovative health-related applications are all pointing to continued growth in the IoH space. IoH has a spectrum of capabilities broadly organized into a 4×4 matrix—general sensors versus sophisticated sensors and consumer versus clinical applications. The innovation is eye-opening, and Pivotal’s Mark D’Cunha will be covering these topics as it relates to social media in his upcoming speech on Wearables and Social Auras at SXSW (Mon Mar 16, 3:30p, Austin Convention Center).

Top Statistics for the Internet of Humans—Consumer and Healthcare Growth

General sensors include those embedded in or connected to mobile phones, and consumer applications generally focus on health and fitness apps, as recently launched by Apple and Google. On the other end of the spectrum, there are very sophisticated sensor devices that capture clinical data. For example, these apps provide patient monitoring and disease support. We also find these categories converging in many ways, creating more regulatory focus. According to PwC, 86% clinicians believe mobile apps will become important to physicians for patient health management over the next five years, and the FDA has recently released greater guidance.

Dozens of reports point to the growth of IoT overall, and, in consumer health and fitness, research from GfK’s experts show a 290% growth in the consumer wearables sector for 2015 with smartwatch sales moving from 4 to 26.1 million units and health/fitness trackers (HFT) from 13.5 to 25 million. The devices retail from $70 to $170, and future projections vary, perhaps crossing 100 million units or reaching $12 billion. No one argues about the growth of mobile platforms in terms of units sold or use, and mobile phones are clearly being extended for health and fitness through applications, accessories, and devices. There is also a myriad of mobile applications, big data stores, and data science algorithms being built for this space, including Pivotal’s work with Philips’ Digital Health Application Platform.

The market for measuring humans in the healthcare industry is perhaps bigger than consumer health and fitness. Many countries have broad adoption of health insurance and most people deal with some type of health issue (if not many) throughout their lives, particularly in aging populations. The IoT market for healthcare is poised to grow 56% each year through 2019, reaching $15 billion from $4 billion in 2014. Many see these technologies as key factors in reducing the cost and increasing the reach of healthcare, which also point to growth. In this arena, it’s not surprising to find clinical applications that collect data and apply data science from human sensors. For example, Pivotal recently built a mobile app for Crescendo Bioscience as well as data science and analytics for Aridhia Informatics.

Sensor Growth for Internet of Humans

In today’s market, we find human sensors in example after example.

Most pervasively, human oriented sensors are expanding in the mobile space. In 2010, the Samsung Galaxy S started with 6 sensors, and the 2014 S5 has 16 sensors. Today’s iPhone has both more sensors and more sophisticated sensors than predecessors. Importantly, it has a motion coprocessor, helping to measure steps, distance, and elevation. There are also more sophisticated location and proximity services through iBeacon and near field communication (used by Apple Pay). Given how much we carry our phones around, the devices are becoming extensions of us, and upcoming applications won’t just know your location by city or neighborhood, they will know if you are near an object—measuring or tracking proximity within our home, office, or retail POS as well as any object, building, or person.

Today, health and fitness trackers are following the same path—first was sensing distance moved then adding temperature, blood oxygen levels, and sleep pattern measurement. In professional and amateur sports, devices and apps are becoming part of mobile phones for golf, tennis, skiing, cycling, and all types of EMG muscle activity. There are also many efforts underway with professional sports applications.

The future of human sensors is already being widely prophesied—measuring stress, perspiration, vital signs, and brainwaves. While no one can truly predict the future, here are 20 examples of IoH companies setting the pace for these trends, largely through sensors, applications, big data, and data science

20 of The Most Innovative Healthcare IoT Apps—Beyond Wearables and Health and Fitness Trackers

  1. In 2014, Apple announced HealthKit, a framework for developers who are building health and fitness services or companies building app-enabled accessories like a Bluetooth compatible heartrate monitor.
  2. In 2014, Google also made a similar announcement with Google Fit SDK, routing around HIPAA laws. The stack also provides a bunch of APIs with a central data repository as it works with partners like Adidas, Nike, and Motorola.
  3. Sensotrack uses in-ear technology and measures heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, respiration rate, step count, body position, and more. Kito performs similar functions as a phone cover.
  4. Spire tracks breathing patterns and activity to understand moments of tension, focus, calm, and activity, giving people feedback on reducing stress.
  5. Sensordrone is an open, programmable platform and is small enough to fit on a keychain while packing 11 sensors into a device—three different types of gas sensors, a non-contact infrared thermometer, humidity, pressure, color, and an ability to expand.
  6. Electrozyme’s printed, flexible strips measure metabolic substances, electrolytes, hydration, and other information in your sweat.
  7. MediSafe uses social engineering, mobile apps, and analytics to support treatment adherence and integrates support from family, friends, and healthcare providers, ensuring people don’t miss their medication.
  8. BiteBite monitors eating patterns and food by analyzing chewing sounds—grabbing data on when, what, where, and how someone is eating.
  9. Philips now offers the Vital Signs Camera, an app that performs contactless measurement of heart and breathing rate by using an iOS application to detect small, heartbeat-related changes to the color of your face and movement of your chest. They also provide an emergency medical alert service built for your smartphone.
  10. AlivecCor provides an external, $75 device for FDA-cleared ECG monitoring that connects to your mobile phone.
  11. Neurosky makes biosensors and biometric algorithms for ECG and EEG, addressing stress, fatigue, heart age, attention, and more.
  12. Biosensics provides balance assessment via wireless sensors for measuring ankle angle, hip angle, and the movement of center of mass, and also provides gait analysis without a gait laboratory, both connecting to Android devices.
  13. Proteus is working to make digital pills possible through both wearable patches and ingestible sensors that send signals to you phone—each pill you take also communicates to a digital health feedback system with vital information about your medication-taking behaviors and body response.
  14. Qardio offers several products, all connecting to iOS or Android. QuardioArm is a compact, wirelesss, portable blood pressure monitor. QardioBase is a new type of scale—one that measures weight, body fat, muscle, water and bone composition, and calculates BMI. QardioCore is a wearable EKG/ECG monitor that also tracks temperature.
  15. Propeller Health helps patients with asthma and COPD. The sensor keeps track of how inhaler medication is used by sitting on top of existing inhalers, and it wirelessly syncs with smartphones over Bluetooth, providing diagnostics and trends for patients and providers.
  16. Cellscope’s Oto turns an iPhone into a medical exam device by allowing parents to video their child’s ear and send it off to doctors. As well, doctors can magnify images, share video, or save images to an electronic medical record.
  17. Opternative provides a refractive eye exam via computer screen or web-enabled phone. While clinical tests are still underway, the service determines near sightedness, far sightedness, and astigmatism with accuracy equal to current doctor visits.
  18. Swipesense uses digital identification badges, portable or wall-mounted sanitizer dispensers, and a network to collect data on hand hygiene practices. Bad hygiene practices cause some portion of the 1.7 million hospital acquired infections per year. With each infection having an average cost of $15K, the potential impact of hand-hygiene reaches $30 billion dollars.
  19. CareSpan USA’s VirtualClinic delivers healthcare to remote regions via the internet. Beyond video telepresence and sharing data, like x-rays, patients connect stethoscopes, vital sign monitors, EKGs, clinical cameras, and other instruments to capture and send data over the internet.
  20. Sensiotec uses radar-based biosensing to create an FDA-cleared, non-contact, real-time stream of big data on cardiorespiratory deterioration, bed fall probability, agitation and turn detection, heart rate, respiration rate, ulcer pressure, and cough detection. Then helps anaylyze and personalize trends and diagnoses.

More About Pivotal in Healthcare:

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