Simbex Approach to Wearables: Optimizing Value to Patients & Providers
Simbex has been developing wearable technologies since before “wearable tech” existed. Our early team recognized the practical limitations of applying laboratory-collected information to everyday environments, and the untapped potential of collecting real world data to change human behavior and positively impact people’s health. Fast forward to today, and it’s hard to believe the wearable market is just starting hit its stride.
The increasing cost of healthcare, the increased prevalence of chronic disease, and maturity of digital biomarkers is driving adoption and quickly expanding beyond smartwatches and activity monitors.
The market is quickly adopting other wearables including hearables and diagnostic/monitoring devices. Our focus at Simbex continues to be on helping users realize the value of wearables with innovations in two main areas: understanding context awareness and user intent, and understanding how sensors, embedded hardware, and algorithms work in harmony to provide value to the user.
Algorithm developers often use an expression, “garbage in, garbage out”. Similarly, collecting data without understanding user intent or user context makes any data we collect have questionable value:
Does a simple pedometer differentiate energy expenditure if you were walking with an empty backpack vs a 30 lb load?
Number of steps taken are the same, but the context is completely different. Our approach is to use as much readily available information to help provide some level of context awareness. When possible, we integrate intrinsic data from sensors on a user along with supplemental data from other sources. These external sources could be current and historical information from calendars (what people are doing or have done) or beaconing systems/location tracking from phones (understanding where people are or have been) coupled with ideas from the field of proxemics.
We not only look at the individual, but the patterns groups of people might be creating in close proximity in a social context (For example: a sports team practice).
Our reliance on apps and mobile devices has exponentially expanded our use of supplemental data to drive context/situational awareness algorithms to help inform context and ultimately user intent.
One of our core philosophies in developing wearables is to ensure that the products we design always work seamlessly with the user. We always explore the use case scenarios, the market needs, and our guiding question: “what is meaningful to the user?”. Once we have a good understanding of the product intent and market need, we assess the physiological principles and the sensing requirements
Sometimes what’s needed for the physiological measurement is at odds with our first principle of making our products work for the user, whether it’s changing batteries too often or having to use the product in an over-prescriptive way. Both will negatively impact adoption. Rarely do we have solutions that capture a physiological measurement of interest directly without compromise. Often times, we have to develop surrogate measures by fusing other physiological information that is more robust, lower cost, or uses less power to inform the physiological measurement of interest.
Developing wearable solutions that work in the real world takes a holistic approach, starting with a fundamental understanding of what you’re trying to measure, a deep knowledge of sensors and electronics, broad software development capabilities embedded firmware to cloud analytics, and experienced data scientists that can adapt algorithms to the situational needs. What makes Simbex unique is the breadth of experience and depth of skill across applied research, analytics, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, software/firmware, and quality — all of which help quickly determine optimal holistic solutions.