A big focus on the future of wearables is the shift towards medical-grade devices – but the cost and complexity of these devices risks leaving people behind.
That’s why Laurie Olivier, the founder and CEO of LifeQ, is looking at a different path.
The company, which has just released a new BioAge score, is the health-tracking brains behind a number of wearables.
It has powered the health tracking on Tag Heuer, Louis Vuitton, Hublot, Montblanc, Fossil Gen 6, Samsung, Suunto, and Xiaomi Mi Watch S1 Active – and its vision is to turn all of these types of wearables into medical-grade devices.
"We’re not about turning all wearables into medical devices. We develop a health platform on top of regular wearables, and that's our secret,” Olivier told Wareable in an interview.
Read more: How AI wearables can become the perfect fitness coach
Olivier describes LifeQ as an agnostic health OS that can run on consumer-grade wearables to offer medical-grade insights. And leveraging the data of ‘normal’ wearables would enable medical-grade insights to be available to everyone.
"It’s a health wearable OS. We want to make sure that the outputs are comparable on all wearables, so they can fit the same platform and that you can replace one device with the other device and still build a picture,” he said.
For Olivier, the key to delivering meaningful health outcomes for people via wearables isn’t delivering medical-grade devices, but being on the arms and wrists of as many people as possible.
"The key thing for us is that we want to be on the arms of people when they think they don't need us. We want to be hidden away there. And, therefore, we needed to do to work with companies like Qualcomm to get into everyday devices, where the people are using it for regular consumer applications," he said.
"Our secret is that you have a bespoke wearable and a vertical stack, which you control, you can get it imitating a medical instrument."
It’s certainly a vision for the future. The problem is that we haven’t seen many devices outside of Apple, Garmin, and Fitbit that are producing strong enough health-tracking metrics to act as medical devices.
But this is changing. When we spoke to Fossil VP Brook Eaton last year, he said that Google was demanding better accuracy from its partners.
While LifeQ has been powering the health and activity tracking of a range of wearables, Olivier says the company also harvests hundreds of extra data points that are not shown to users.
Most of these metrics, says Olivier, have no intrinsic value to the wearer, but they create what he calls a constellation of health data that can point to more interesting health data points.
"We will mine a different set of information also through the photoplethysmography optical heart rate sensor.
"We then take that set of biometrics and start applying our core capability, which is systems biology, and which is understanding the whole mechanistic integration of physiology.
“I think we're approximating around about 300 biometrics," he explains.
So, how does this work in practice? One example, Olivier says, is how LifeQ can look for mental health markers across a number of disparate biomarkers.
“One example is trauma, PTSD, and anxiety. They are becoming chronic stress and move on to depression.”
“That’s where REM latency becomes now a very important one. REM latency is a new level of biometric that measures when you fall asleep to your first REM cycle. We can also look at your heart rate variability during deep sleep. Suddenly, now we have a new metric, the mental metric coming out of that,” he explained.
“We then connect the dots between the biometrics - we call it inter and intra relationships between them,” he said.
With so much of the focus of wearables on a future of biowearables, FDA-approved skin sensors, blood pressure, and glucose tracking, it’s refreshing to hear a vision of a future of meaningful devices delivered via standard consumer devices.
While a subsection of invested users will pay exorbitant amounts for medical-grade wearables, like the early days of fitness trackers, it’s likely to be those already living healthy lifestyles that jump on board first.
To really enable wearables to help people make changes, we need to leverage cheaper, attractive consumer devices to produce meaningful data.
To date, that hasn’t happened. So it’s over to LifeQ to make sure it does.
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