Wearable Technology and Healthcare: An Inevitable Merger in the Making

The data collection of consumer habits, experiences, and buyer conditions has indubitably been a point of focus for many of the world’s largest corporations, especially those whose businesses hinge a good deal on coming up with “the next big thing” to stay relevant. Namely, the technology sector, which hasn’t insofar failed to convince the newest generation of consumers that a novel service or device is just what they need to convenience their lives further.  The—however arguable—fad that was wearable wristbands is slowly giving way in both commercial recognition to newer, far better-funded technologies such as the infamous Google Glass, which has received as much backlash as it has praise for its truly in-your-face product. Wearable technology has been denounced simultaneously as yet another monetization scheme contributing to ubiquitous commercialism in the Internet Age as well as lauded as an opportunity to mine and output valuable data ultimately benefiting both user and distributor. For at least one company, both statements are equally true–and profitable.

Novartis (NYSE: NVS), based out of Switzerland, is the one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical corporations, best recognized for producing such drugs as Diovan, Gleevec, and Lucentis. On Monday, Alcon, a division of the pharmaceutical company, announced its intentions of teaming up with technology giant Google (NYSE: GOOGL) to produce a novel type of contact lens–one that will monitor blood glucose levels of diabetics, and of course correct impaired vision as necessary. A minuscule sensor tests tears for their glucose levels, then transmits the data via an embedded antenna to another device, which may in the future be incorporated into Google’s own Glass device. An additional proposal by Alcon included embedding LED lights into the lens to warn a user of dangerously low blood glucose levels.

Furthermore, Alcon hopes the lenses will provide a solution to presbyopia, a medical condition impairing the eye’s ability to focus. Alcon plans to introduce either a surgically implanted or topical application which will auto-focus on objects in the user’s line of sight.

The announcement of the collaboration comes only a month after the Google Fit, a platform that monitors various health metrics and is a direct competitor to Apple’s much-anticipated HealthKit, an unreleased platform allowing a variety of fitness and health solutions to gather data (cholesterol, heart rate, blood sugar, calories burned) on the user and aggregate it via the iOS 8 HealthKit application.

Wearable technology is already making an impact on the medical profession at the Indiana University School of Medicine, where surgeons are sporting Google Glasses during procedures through telemedicine, a budding branch of the healthcare industry devoted to providing distance clinical services via the Internet.

The transfer of power to take control of one’s own health through body-monitoring systems may be representative of a larger trend in the healthcare spectrum; the illusory increase of information that will theoretically be available to both doctor and patient through these technologies will likely serve to ultimately benefit the pharmaceutical and technology industries’ balance sheets more than the public’s balance scales.

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