Written by: Stephen Whalley, Chief Strategy Officer, MEMS Industry Group
I had the pleasure of attending the 8th Annual Body Computing Conference on October 3rd 2014. This was the second year I have attended, and once again it did not disappoint. In one jam-packed day, this conference spearheaded by Dr. Leslie Saxon, Executive Director USC Center For Body Computing, brought together digital health rock stars of innovation from startups to the traditional establishments, investors, academics, athletes, and the general healthcare and technology supply chain. While I could point out a number of interesting new devices, software, APPs and services that were announced at the conference, I’d like to give a brief mention of just one.
SingFit is a musical therapy mobile app. It’s actually a bit of a stretch to mention it at all as it uses little to no MEMS technology. I highlight it though as it won the Body Computing and Skullcandy SLAM contest. The win highlights a growing trend in using music as a way to help patients comply with their therapies. It is also fun and shows great results. Rachel Francine and Andy Tubman developed and created the SingFit app to find new solutions for everything from autism and depression to chronic pain and Parkinson's disease, by using the world's oldest medicine, music, in a 21st century fashion. SingFit digitizes the evidence-based music therapy technique of lyric prompting, which enables practically everyone, including those with dementia, autism and traumatic brain injuries to sing on a regular basis in order to achieve therapeutic goals. The videos that Andy showed at the event were truly inspiring. They motivated me to think about what could be done if more MEMS and sensors were used in this way.
The Body Computing Conference topics and general industry landscape point to MEMS/sensors being front and center of the mobile health and handheld/wearable device discussion. During the conference, various speakers mentioned the current and future use and impact of MEMS/sensors throughout the day.
While there have been tremendous advancements in MEMS over the past two decades to meet the demanding needs of high-volume automotive and consumer electronics, we are still in our relative infancy when it comes to small form factor, low-power, low-cost mobile biosensors being applied in wellness and medical applications to deliver an easy-to-use consumer experience. As one analyst and panel discussion pointed out, the future is not wearable…it’s invisible. Is the MEMS/sensor industry capable of delivering on this future anytime soon? When will implantable sensors, skin tattoo sensors and sensor-based clothing actually be a reality for the masses? Lots more work to do here whether you believe it’s upon us already or will happen for the next generation.
The ‘more work to do’ aspect has got to involve closer cooperation between the healthcare industry and MEMS/sensor technologists. While Dr. Saxon ‘s work and conference are a bright spot in bringing technological innovation into healthcare settings, and AliveCor is a notable success story here, we are just scratching the surface of the opportunity and the challenges still to come.
The good news is that many individuals, companies and industry bodies are coming together to discuss and debate the issues. We need to move quickly to not just observe these challenges but to join and co-create the future of digital health. MEMS Industry Group has formed a healthcare working group to focus on what we can do to better serve not only the needs of our members and industry but to see how we can better serve the needs of the healthcare industry and our co-creation partners there. There will be a panel and topic table session on this at the upcoming MEMS Executive Congress US 2014, November 5-7, Scottsdale, AZ. Come sing, dance and co-create with us!