Beyond period tracking: Femtech and designing wearables for women

Watch Issy Towell's talk at the Wareable event in London
Femtech and designing wearables for women
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“Femtech is not about products built by women. Femtech is about creating products to try and reach better healthcare outcomes that differently disproportionately or solely affect women and girls.”

That was the key definition of femtech by Issy Towell, wearables analyst at CCS Insight who spoke at the Wareable presents: Wearables London event in June.

“Femtech applies to products that affects all women, from cradle to grave,” she continued.

We highly recommend watching Issy's excellent talk in full below.

Hyper masculine design

Issy Towell started her talk about smartwatches, and the challenges women have faced when it comes to the size and design of wearables.

"When you look for products that are made for everyone, but that are actually made for men, the best example on the internet is the smartwatch,” she said.

“When smartwatches first came to be in 2013 – 2014 they just weren't built with women in mind. It's not a product that is relevant for women at that size. It looks hyper masculine.

“But since then, we've seen a little bit of innovation in terms of the physical design. Other than Samsung making a really masculine smartwatch in a smaller size,” she said.

“I think if we're going to effectively grow this category for you know, for several years and reach peak penetration, then we need to be thinking about features that actually benefit women's lives.”

Lightweight innovation

Beyond period tracking: Femtech and designing wearables for women

And despite menstrual tracking being a staple of wearables today – Issy detailed the lack of innovation in this area:

“Before 2018 there wasn't a whole lot on wearable health platforms. Basically, what they provided was a logging calendar for women," she explained.

"In 2018, Fitbit introduced its period prediction feature. It tried to predict when your next period would be, but all this was really using with your inputted period data, and worked out on average when you'd be having your next period."

Fast forward to 2022, not a whole lot has changed except for the fact that all of the mainstream wearables, players have now adopted that period prediction feature.

And while many wearables have started to use skin temperature sensors, such as the Fitbit Charge 5, Huawei Watch GT3, Amazfit GTR 3, very few have leveraged this to apply it to cycle tracking, which would make it far more accurate and useful.

“There's lots of innovation in the wearables industry now trying to use biometric data as an input for that period prediction and ovulation prediction. And I think the most interesting area for innovation is in the skin temperature tracking that we're seeing coming on to some wearables,” Issy said.

Skin temperature tracking correlates to the increase in progesterone, which is linked to the menstrual cycle.

Fertility-focused wearables such as Ava have been using skin temperature for a while and have been FDA approved. But this hasn’t spilled into the general interest wearable.

Beyond periods

Beyond period tracking: Femtech and designing wearables for women

However, Issy highlighted a couple of mainstream wearables that are using biometrics to focus on women’s health – but away from period prediction.

The Oura Ring 3 uses seven temperature sensors and at the end of last year released its skin temperature, period prediction beta.

“If this gets through approval, this will be the first non-fertility focused solution on the market with a period of prediction that has a biometric input into that algorithm.”

And Issy also highlighted Whoop, which is also running a trial using user inputted period data, to generate personalised feedback about in relation to their health and fitness.

This could be data on when to train, and when to rest – but crucially based on the female cycle, not just the standard set of biometrics that are currently provided to men and women alike.

And as Issy concluded her talk:

“Ultimately, I think if these women's health features are going to become mainstream, I think we're going to have to get closer to that idea of giving women personalised feedback, in real time, that responds to their biometric data.”

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