Delivering portable healthcare

The scope of electronic wearables has broadened from hearing aids or heartbeat monitors to items widely used in social, health, wellness, and medical areas. These areas include smart glasses, smart watches, glucose monitoring, and drug delivery devices. Because these devices monitor crucial aspects of our health, it is important that they function accurately and safely. Many parts of portable technology rely on IEC standards to operate reliably and safely. 

The fast-growing smart trend

In 2014, the global market for wearable smart glasses, activity monitors, and smart watches could total USD 3 billion. ABI Research estimates the market for wearables in the sports and health sectors will approximate 170 million devices by 2017.

IEC’s technical committee for audio, video, and multimedia systems and equipment has standardised methods of measurement for the power consumption of audio, video, and related equipment. The committee continues to track the needs of this emerging market.

Powering wearable technologies

Advances in material sciences, chip evolution, and battery power have helped these products go from military applications initially, to the mainstream consumer field. IEC’s technical committee for secondary cells and batteries continues to work towards batteries that meet the power needs of wearable technologies.

New wearables for medical applications

These increasingly popular wearable technologies could significantly change healthcare, as consumer electronics morph into health monitors. Some examples include:

  • a wearable, mobile-enabled ambulatory blood pressure monitor, which connects to a user’s mobile device via Bluetooth or a PC through a USB cable
  • a lightweight, wearable mobile-enabled wireless ambulatory electrocardiogram, designed for 24-hour continuous monitoring
  • a mobile-enabled wearable pulse oximeter, designed for continuous monitoring up to 12 hours.

These allow users at home to share information with medical professionals and caregivers in other locations.

Connecting the technology across industries

Several IEC technical committees are considering the convergence of digital technology from diverse industries. This convergence demands interoperability in the consumer and the professional marketplace.

IEC’s technical committee for electronic display devices is working on standards that are required for all aspects of flat panel display devices, especially for harmonisation efforts. Other committees are standardising specifications for audio, video, and multimedia systems and equipment.

Looking ahead

The personal mobile wearables market calls for high reliability, small sensors, microelectromechanical devices, and highly integrated semiconductor devices. As this market grows, so will the demand for new international standards to address these areas. IEC’s technical committee for semiconductor devices is best positioned to play an important and proactive role in this field.

This article first appeared in IEC e-tech, November 2014, and is summarised here with permission.

Published in health.