Sure, health and medical applications are likely to drive WellTech device development in the near term, because we spend a lot of money on those fields and can justify relatively expensive devices if they can deliver overall savings.
But there’s another field that spends mounds of money and that is obsessed with health and fitness: professional sports. In a story in the Boston Globe, Shira Springer describes out pro athletes and their employers are looking at WellTech as a way to gain a competitive edge.
It’s been clear that more data is better than less in just about any professional sport. Real-time telemetry has revolutionized the professional auto racing business over the years, where the support crew can analyze a driver’s reaction times and decisions down to fractions of a second. Other pro sports now put such an emphasis on fitness that athletes train all year long; there is no more “off season” for most pros.
Fitness devices offer the promise of giving the athletes and their trainers much more data about their performance. The Globe article talks about a new product, the Biostamp, under development by MC10 based in Cambridge, MA. This thin patch is flexible and just about disappears when you apply it to your skin. It could give coaches and trainers real time data about a range of performance metrics while an athlete is playing. Other tracking devices are already in use in professional sports, including the entire Australian Rules Football League, some NBA teams, and some NFL teams.
It is possible that we may even see some of this data shared with fans in real time. For example, we already see stats on how far World Cup soccer players have run during a match or the speed of a Major League Baseball pitcher’s last throw. Imagine being able to follow a player’s heart rate or breathing rate when standing at a basketball free-throw line or during a punt-return for a touchdown run. It could add a new dimension to watching sports.
The market may be small in terms of numbers, but when you are paying some players millions of dollars a year to play a game, there is a strong incentive to keep them healthy and to get maximum performance from them. WellTech devices may provide a competitive edge, and this in turn could help fund development of devices for the rest of us.