Tom Kelshaw
Mar 10, 2014

Wellness technologies feature at SXSW 2014

A handful of startups are promoting wellness concepts that go beyond how many steps you walk in a day.

Tom Kelshaw
Tom Kelshaw

Wearable technologies were arguably one of the biggest trends earlier this year at Consumer Electronic Show (CES) 2014 at Las Vegas. Many consumer electronics companies like Sony, LG and Razer introduced their own version of fitness trackers.

“You quickly get bored of knowing how many steps you took each day,” said Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO in his closing remarks at Day 1 of South by Southwest (SXSW) convention in Austin, Texas.

SXSW represents a groundswell of innovation waiting for their big break. In the past, the convention helped technology startups like Twitter and Foursquare reach critical mass quickly within days.

Earlier today, I attended sessions presented by Venture Capitalists (VCs), strategists and thinkers from MIT, Microsoft and Rock Health, a fund that supports startups building next generation technologies in healthcare. A handful of startups banded under the common theme of wellness technologies, which goes beyond just fitness and includes health and mental wellness.

This includes, Wello (right) an iPhone case that can track your blood pressure, temperature and more. You could essentially track medical data of your entire family and give doctors a more complete picture during medical consultations. After all, it is a known fact that our blood pressure spike and fall throughout the day. The case currently retails at US$255 and is available for pre-orders outside the USA, including China, India, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Kinsa touts itself to be the World’s smartest thermometer. Retailing at slightly less than US$20, Kinsa helps makes taking temperature for your little ones less stressful and does a preliminary diagnosis of the possible cause of an onset of illness based on data from people using the product around the area. The startup aims to create a global map of human health via temperature as the main data point; possibly spotting and preventing epidemics if the product receives widespread adoption.

Neumitra is a bio-sensing watch that measures stress in real-time via pulse. Imagine overlaying this data on a calendar to see what traffic jams, meetings or even dinners with the family does to stress you out.

More from SXSW 2014

In a VentureBeat interview, Robert Goldberg, co-founder of Neumitra and a neuroscience PhD said, “Imagine mapping whole cities and countries based on when and where stress spikes. We dream of a future where stress is a score that we all know and discuss, in the same way we talk about our weight or blood pressure. Imagine how a view of the stressed planet would change how we see stress."

If we could measure stress and know the effects of stress has on the decisions we make, assuming the data is made public voluntarily by the user, advertisers could possibly tailor and target products and promotions to reduce and manage stress.

The one project that caught my interest was a bio-engineering research involving a daily necessity for us creative professionals: coffee.

Ella Watkins from University of Texas showcased her project which is a bio-engineered bacterium that detects caffeine strength. She collected samples from over 20 local Austin coffee houses.

If you’re an avid coffee drinker, your tolerance for coffee builds up over time and having a chart that tells you when you should switch where you buy your next cup of 12 Oz (355ml) strong brew could be useful.

I’ll be visiting the winning coffee house concluded from this project tomorrow. Hopefully, stronger caffeine will be a remedy for stress caused by jet lag.

Tom Kelshaw is director of technology at Metalworks by Maxus


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