Sweat stickers

What that doesn’t sound appealing? Sure “Battery-free, skin-interfaced microfluidic/electronic systems for simultaneous electrochemical, colorimetric, and volumetric analysis of sweat” is more descriptive, but we’ll stay with sweat stickers. You could have your very own sweat sticker soon, which will tell you if you’re dehydrated, have low oxygen levels, or are at risk for cystic fibrosis. Recent (as in, Friday’s) advances in wearable tech have debuted a soft, light, battery-free patch which can monitor various biomarkers present in sweat and relay the info to a receiver. Companies like Gatorade and L’Oreal are hard at work developing their own sweat stickers, so expect to hear this throwback on repeat at their offices.

Wearable members only

Major life insurer John Hancock has been offering its vitality program since 2015, which allows members to reduce their premiums if they meet their activity goals as tracked by a fitness wearable. But the company has ramped up its efforts to gather that data from its members in the past week—now John Hancock only offers life insurance plans that include the vitality program discounts. We’re wondering what is more valuable for the company: the health data they collect from their members, or fitter members that stick around to pay for policies longer? We’re also wondering how this thinking pans out in the future, will life insurers require everyone to buy an Iron Man-style suit that sends biometrics back to the insurer? Well, this writer can’t complain if there’s financing.

Got diabetes? Do sweat it.

University of Texas at Dallas researchers have developed a new wearable for type 2 Diabetes management, which promises tons more data in exchange for a lot less blood. Instead, their device asks for just 1-3 microliters of sweat, which is probably less than the amount formed on my keyboard in the process of writing this article. The biosensor uses a “room temperature ionic liquid” to stabilize the skin’s environment, ensuring reliable readings of glucose, cortisol, and interleukin-6 compounds for up to a week. So instead of jabbing themselves hundreds of times in a month with single use test strips, diabetics could just buy 4 biosensors and be all set, while having the luxury of pulling up their levels on the device’s app at any time.

Clinical trial participation – from the comfort of home

In the age of Amazon Prime, grocery delivery, and, yep, even sock delivery subscriptions, it’s getting easier and easier to never leave the house. And it’s even more annoying when you do have to venture out and interact with other human beings, amirite? Luckily for us hermits, PAREXEL and Sanofi aim to make it easier to participate in clinical trials from the comfort of your Lazy Boy. The two companies are launching a pilot study to test the medical and scientific viability of wearable devices in clinical trials using PAREXEL’s patient sensor solution. The goals are to make things easier on patients and sites, collect a whole bunch of data, and reduce costs all the way around. High five for progress!

2. How smart is your Fitbit? Really smart!

Last week, medical device manufacturing company, Medtronic, and wearable tech company, Fitbit, announced plans to merge health and activity tracking for people with diabetes. By tracking activity levels and glucose levels together, patients and their doctors can get a better view of how exercise impacts their glucose levels. People with Type 2 diabetes won’t have to carry around sheets of paper, manually log their blood sugar levels, remember (or misremember) exercise details and outcomes. Anything that reduces pain—physical or mental—will be welcomed by those with diabetes. In our humble opinion, the migration from consumer activity monitoring to real healthcare is an enormous leap for consumer wearables.

3. Throw away the Band-Aids and break out the batteries

We’ve all had cuts and scrapes and most of them have healed pretty quickly. Well, the chronic wounds (i.e. diabetic ulcers) that affect 6 million US patients per year require a little more attention than antiseptic and a band aid. So much in fact that the US health care system spends an estimated $20B annually on treating these wounds. Cue the brilliant minds at Drexel University who have created a small, battery-powered, wearable device that uses low-frequency ultrasound to heal wounds. This caught the attention of the NIH who has awarded Drexel $3M to test the therapy over the next five years. Batteries make terrible band aids, but 6M patients a year means they’ll be in a lot of medicine cabinets.