Wearable devices are all the rage these days, and small startups and tech giants are eager to cash in on the trend, rushing to market with plans for related products.
The wearable healthcare market is predicted to jump to more than $41 billion in 2020 from $2 billion in 2014, with segments for diabetes, sleep disorders, obesity and cardiovascular disease driving growth, according to Soreon Research data cited by Reuters. Cambridge, MA-based startup Empatica is jumping on the bandwagon, developing a wristband that can flag seizures in epilepsy patients to avoid a postseizure condition that causes sudden death.
The company originally developed the wristband to detect stress in people with autism who have trouble communicating their emotions, but Empatica sees additional applications for its device further down the line. The product can track sleep, motion and heart rate, and also measures physiological stress by gauging skin conductance, or changes in electrical signals in the skin that correlate with “fight or flight” responses, Reuters reports.
Empatica recently kicked off large clinical trials of its wristband device for depression, eyeing a bigger potential market for its device. But for now, the company is shooting to get FDA approval for the product in patients with seizures.
Empatica seems well on its way to achieving its wearable ambitions. In 2014, the company raked in $2 million in seed funding from angel investors and more than $700,000 in a crowdfunding campaign for its first consumer device, dubbed Embrace. If all goes to plan, the company will start shipping Embrace in early 2016, Reuters reports.
Meanwhile, Verily is also exploring potential applications of wearable technology. The company will team up with regulators to develop its own medical-grade devices, CMO Dr. Jessica Mega said recently at a digital health conference.
The way Mega sees it, companies need deep analytics such as those found in wearables to identify signals like changes in blood sugar and abnormal heart beats. Machine learning technologies will shed light on “unknown signals” but the process will “take additional analytics,” Mega said, as quoted by Reuters.