Upcoming trends in wearable health monitoring technology

As the saying goes, “There’s an app for everything.” In the not-too-distant future, we might make the same claim for wearable health sensors. According to Germany-based market and consumer data company Statista, more than 533 million wearable devices were shipped worldwide in 2021, including watches, bracelets, hearing aids and other products that help healthcare providers and patients monitor and maintain overall health.
From early iterations like motion sensors that count steps taken and hours slept to electrodes that measure heart, muscle and brain activity, the technology is becoming more sophisticated and diverse. Some of the more recent innovations include biometrics made accessible through skin patches and chemical sensors that offer diabetic patients an alternative to finger sticks to measure their glucose levels.

The National Institutes of Health found that approximately 30% of adults in the United States use wearable healthcare devices, with nearly half of them reportedly using their devices every day for increasingly sophisticated medical purposes. Additionally, a recent report by IDTechEx, a global market research, business intelligence and technology events company, claims that the expansion into health monitoring through wearable sensors will meet a growing demand for remote patient monitoring and decentralized clinical trials, not just among healthcare professionals, but among general consumers. The outcome will include easier access to healthcare and further sensor integration in headsets and other accessories for immersive experiences in the metaverse, according to the Wearable Sensors 2023-2033 report.

The report analyzes the complex landscape of sensor types, biometrics and form factors to provide insight into how wearable sensor use could continue to grow. The report also highlights the key opportunities and challenges for each sensor type to achieve commercial success over the next 10 years.

The next generation technology

According to IDTechEx researchers, sensor developers are interested in pushing the boundaries of what can be measured non-invasively with light through technologies such as photoplethysmography and spectroscopy. Several companies are reportedly competing for leadership in commercializing portable blood pressure monitors and devices that could replace standard hospital tests.

The report also devotes a section to electrodes, the use of which has become an emerging trend in four categories of devices – wet, dry, microneedle and electronic skin – and has led to better measurement and assessment of heart and brain activity Vital functions, sleep and stress.

Future wearables are also expected to become less invasive as evidenced by the report’s overview of the existing continuous glucose marketing market, which provides an analysis of competitor technologies.

Continuous everyday integration

Analyzing the progress of more than 50 wearable electronic product types throughout the study, IDTechEx researchers also attempted to predict how wearable sensors might be integrated into society in the long term. Digital health devices and remote patient monitoring, extended reality, metaverse and athlete performance analytics have been identified as key growth drivers.

Key questions also answered in the report include:

  • What is the current and future market size of each wearable sensor type?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of each wearable sensor technology?
  • What is the technological and commercial maturity of each wearable sensor technology for each application?
  • What are the basic operating principles of each sensor type?
  • Who are the key players in each sensor type and what are their plans?
  • What are the promising innovation opportunities and areas of application?
  • How are macroscopic trends affecting the wearable sensor market?

Each product assessment consists of an understanding and characterization of the prevalence of sensor types built into each modality. The report examines the key sensor components in each of these wearable product categories and focuses on 12 different sensor types. The combination of detailed forecasts for wearable products and an understanding of the sensor landscape and suppliers enables detailed forecasting of wearable sensors in terms of sales, prices and volume. Data from 2010 to present provides insight into the forecast for 2023-2033.

More information about the report is available online. A full portfolio of wearable research is also available through IDTechEx.

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