Wearable electronics: innovating consumer healthcare

Bert Gyselinckx, General Manager at Holst Centre/imec, is giving a keynote speech at Wireless Health 2013 on November 2. Entitled "Innovating consumer healthcare", the presentation will outline how wearable electronics is set to revolutionize healthcare by switching the focus from managing illness to managing health.

Wearable electronics enables a host of new consumer healthcare monitoring and treatment applications that go wherever we go. Anything from vital signs measurements to phototherapy systems could be embedded into the things we wear, unobtrusively looking after our health. Applications such as heart rate and activity monitors are already starting to appear on the market - often embedded in watches or pendants. However, short battery lifetimes, unreliable data quality and the discomfort of wearing these devices for extended periods limits their usefulness and attractiveness to consumers.

"Comfort is the key driver for consumer healthcare applications. In medical use, patients will put up with some discomfort. But with a device they will wear for long periods, comfort becomes essential. To unleash the full potential of wearable electronics, devices must become thinner, more flexible and stretchable so they are more comfortable to wear closer to our bodies. Combined with lower power consumption to improve autonomy, this will enable truly wearable devices that deliver continuous monitoring and put medical-quality data in consumers' hands," Gyselinckx explains.

In his keynote speech at Wireless Health, Gyselinckx will discuss some of the key trends in wearable electronics for consumer healthcare. These include the proliferation of new form factors; the emergence of conformable systems; the use of smartphones, tablets and apps; powering on-body applications; and collecting and fusing a wider range of biological data.

Gyselinckx and imec have been active in wearable electronics and wireless health applications from before Holst Centre opened in 2005. Holst Centre and imec work to improve the power consumption and performance of sensors, radios, microprocessors and algorithms for wireless healthcare, and earlier this year announced a deal to take its wearable ExG sensor node into pilot production. At the same time, it develops technologies for low-cost, high-volume manufacturing of flexible electronics, and recently announced a technology for integrating electronics into textiles and rubber to enable applications that flex and stretch with human skin.

In addition to developing and validating new technologies, Holst Centre and imec support companies in product development, helping reduce the risk of moving into new markets. This includes design validation, ramp-up and up-scaling support and help in finding partners to quickly establish a supply chain for new products.