Health Technology: What’’s Ahead in 2016?

By Sarah Kunkle and Gillian Christie

In 1965, Henry Moore proposed that the number of components in an integrated circuit would double every year. Over the last fifty years, Moore’s Law has held true and technological innovation has become steadily faster, cheaper, and more ubiquitous in our everyday lives. As we begin the New Year, here is what we are excited about for 2016 and beyond:

  1. Wearables and Smartwatches

Industry reports show that Fitbit, Apple, and other activity trackers dominate the wearables market. Newer products, however, are moving beyond counting steps to give users a broader picture of their health, focusing on issues like stress, mental health, and reproductive health. There are no signs of the market slowing down, as prices drop and companies look to integrate these technologies into workplace health programs.

  1. Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT – a broad term that refers to non-computer and non-phone Internet connected devices – will transform many industries, including health. According to one estimate, this market segment could reach $117 billion by 2020. There is potential for IoT technologies to impact healthcare and health promotion by indirectly impacting consumers’ broader environments so as to improve their health, or by directly enabling consumers to take control of their health through access to such devices and relevant data. This market will continue to expand as there is increased pressure for consumerization of technologies and companies look for opportunities to improve health outcomes while reducing costs.

  1. Ingestibles and Embeddables

Within the larger IoT market, ingestibles and embeddables are becoming particularly ubiquitous. Jawbone’s CEO Hosain Rahman has said his company is interested in developing ingestible health sensors that users swallow, potentially tracking circulation, blood-alcohol content, and other metrics. Google is also working on similar technologies focused on cancer detection and the FDA has already approved one ingestible device for medication adherence. Embeddables that fit under the skin or inside clothing are also in development and will become more prevalent in 2016. While wearables might be the buzzworthy term of the moment, more people will be talking about ingestibles and embeddables in 2016.

  1. Augmented Intelligence & Robotics

Smartphones and personalized health technologies are generating more data that require advanced analytics. Machine learning and cognitive computing could be the answer. IBM’s Watson remains the market leader with a variety of partners — CVS Health, Novo Nordisk, Memorial Sloan Kettering to name a few. Beyond cognitive computing, robotics has the potential to transform the health technology sector. Pepper, the first emotion-sensing robot, has demonstrated huge potential to promote healthy aging by assisting the elderly with exercises and cognitive activities.

  1. Virtual Reality

As major technology companies like Microsoft and Facebook develop technologies that leverage virtual reality, health will be transformed. Older adults can use virtual reality as a form of entertainment or to minimize social isolation, and young individuals can exercise while running through the Amazon rainforest or the streets of Venice. In 2016 and beyond, virtual reality will merge with olfactory experiences to advance health.

With the rise in ubiquity of health technologies, ethical, legal, and social implications emerge that are associated with devices and data. As consumers become increasingly more empowered in their health, 2016 may well be the year of privacy, transparency, and greater accountability for individual and societal benefit.


What are you most excited about health technology in 2016? Let us know by sharing in the comments below or tweeting at the Vitality Institute @VitalityUSA.

Source of Image: Social Solutions

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