Technology is transforming health.
Maybe you're wearing the evidence right now -- a FitBit that helps you become more active, a Jawbone UP that tracks your sleep or a Pebble smartwatch that sends illustrations of exercises to your wrist. The market for health and fitness wearables is exploding, as highlighted at South by Southwest in March. Consider these examples of emerging health technology, which were on display at the conference:
"Smart" pill bottles
Taking medicine at the right time -- on the right day -- could mean the difference between life and death. That's why New York-based AdhereTech has created smart pill bottles that send real-time alerts to secure online servers and users. When someone is supposed to take his or her medicine, for example, the bottle glows blue; if it isn't opened, it turns red and begins to beep. AdhereTech's system also issues reminders via text message or phone call.
Adult briefs that track health data? You got it. The company that developed smart diapers for infants is now catering to an older audience. Pixie Scientific's disposable briefs contain an indicator panel on the front that screens for urinary tract infections and monitors hydration. The aim: to identify conditions before symptoms occur, so treatment can begin early.
Customized mental health help
ThriveOn, an online and mobile service, offers counseling for people with mental health issues -- without long wait times, in-person interactions or high fees. When you sign up, you take an assessment that examines your mood, stress, anxiety level, body image and sleep habits. Then, you begin a personalized program that combines reading, interactive exercises, mood and behavior tracking, and weekly feedback from a ThriveOn coach.
Wearable fall protection
ActiveProtective, based in Allentown, Pa., creates "smart garments" -- wearable underwear that contains 3-D motion sensors that detect falls. If someone's activity deviates from the norm, indicating a fall, a micro-airbag deploys from the underwear to protect the wearer from injury. The garment also issues a call for help.
The baby monitor of the future
Clip a small sensor to your baby's clothes, and receive wireless updates to your iPhone every time she rolls over. It's possible, thanks to Massachusetts-based Sensible Baby. The company's monitor collects data such as ambient temperature, posture, movement and breathing. There's a predictive component, too: The device could let parents know to expect an additional 45 minutes of sleep time if the baby is fed in the next 15 minutes, for example.
Canada-based Plantiga's Suspnd shoe technology is focused on performance. It supplies real-time data, with information on weight transfer, distribution and other movement patterns. Data can be sent to various smartphone apps, and used for diagnostics, self-quantification, improving sports performance and gaming, in addition to other purposes. As Plantiga says on its website: "Bio-sensing from footwear enables better decisions for people who suffer musculoskeletal problems, diabetic neuropathy and plantar fasciitis, among other" conditions.
A thermometer that knows all
Meet the world's smartest thermometer: Kinsa, a $20 device that integrates with your smartphone. In addition to showing degree-by-degree rise in your body temperature, it helps make sense of your symptoms. It taps into "health weather," a database that considers, for example, if the flu or strep throat is affecting your community. Bonus: Show your phone to your doctor, and he'll have instant access to the data Kinsa has collected.
An emergency room -- in your pocket
Hold the Scanadu Scout to your forehead, and it measures temperature, heart rate and hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your blood, in 10 seconds. That information is then transmitted to your smartphone, so you can track and analyze your vitals without stepping foot in a doctor's office.