Wearable wireless medical devices to top 100 million units by 2016

According to a report by ABI research (Oyster Bay, N.Y., U.S.A.), the market for wearable 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. 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, according to the report.

Ultra-low power wireless technologies such as single mode Bluetooth 4.0, existing proprietary, and the planned specifications from 802.15.6, a task group focused on low-power and low-frequency wireless standards for Body Area Network Technologies (BAN), are combining with mobile handsets and social networking application capabilities to drive adoption of a new generation of body-worn sensors, according to ABI research. These sensors have the capability of automating 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,” says Jonathan Collins, 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 standardized specifications, says the research firm. The professional healthcare market is also starting to look at the potential for embedded wireless communication in wearable devices for in-hospital and remote patient care.

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