Hearable devices in the IoT healthcare sector – what’s next?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is leading our society to a quick transition to the digitalization-era, deeply and inevitably impacting and altering the way humans live and interact with each other.

At the same time, society as a whole is striving for greater life quality and to do so health issues have to be monitored and treated more efficiently. Consequently, the Internet of Things (IoT) scene is enriching itself thanks to the development of new devices in the different market segments of this industry.

The Internet of Things, applied to the field of wearable devices, represents a disruptive combination of technologies which can allow greater customization and traceability of parameters, consequently improving people’s overall wellbeing. 

If for many years smartwatches and smartbands have driven the demand for wearables, a new rising technology is taking the scene. This is the case for earwear devices, commonly referred to hearables.

According to IDC, these wearables achieved the highest year-to-year growth from 2018 to 2019, with a staggering figure of 242 percent from the previous year. In 2019, 139.4 million hearable devices were shipped, capturing 45.7 percent of 2019’s market share. This figure is expected to grow even more. Customer’s rising demand to take control of their health is highly influencing the use of wearable technology in the healthcare sector. 

Hearables can offer more than connectivity amongst devices, which is enabled through the Bluetooth connection.

They can embed biometric, movement or proximity sensors which can tell a lot about the users’ behaviour.

The ears represent an ideal position to retrieve the data and are metaphorically described as a person’s USB entrance. Its closeness to the brain suggests that in the future sensors which manage to retrieve this sort of data will be exploited through this type of device.

The deducable health parameters include calories and energy expenditure, heart rate recovery time and variability, respiratory rate and many more.

Currently, biosensors which manage to retrieve body temperature are being tested and could reach the market in the next months, therefore opening up to new functionalities.

The retrieval of these metrics can be translated into more accurate and tailored information, through the implementation of artificial intelligence, in order to increase the awareness of the health and fitness conditions, early disease detection and avoidance of the overloading of the cardiovascular system.

Furthermore, hearable devices are capable of providing voice feedback to the users, hence removing the need for users to look at a display for the information

Currently we are working to develop biometric hearables which using the signals from the heart are capable of ‘reading’ the users’ emotional state. Research shows that health parameters such as the heart rate variability (HSV), may be used to determine a person’s emotional state. This includes understanding whether a person is stressed, happy, sad, tired, etc.

By expanding the aspect of health-tracking, it could be interesting to develop a music recommendation algorithm based on Machine Learning techniques and Artificial intelligence algorithms. These algorithms would get to know the user, in particular by understanding his/her music tastes and consequently understanding which kind of music are most preferable depending on the circumstance. 

Therefore, based on the users’ music taste and emotional status, recommends the music suitable for the particular circumstance.

Moreover, embedding features such as live translation and noise cancelling could potentially add more appeal to this new product. For this reason we are trying to understand the current state of the earphone’s market.

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Understanding buying patterns, as well as customers expectations for future developments, can help the development stage of this project. 

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