MedTech: Wearables, Privacy & The Quantified Self

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The healthcare wearables market is expected to grow to $60bn by 2023, according to Juniper Research. With the trend in fitness tracking wristwatches, in particular, continuing in earnest, onefourzero took a look at how the wider healthcare wearables market is performing online.

We looked at a range of subcategories within the sector: Heart Rate, Blood Sugar/Diabetes, Vision, Injectors, Parkinsons, Blood Pressure and Fertility/Ovulation.

Heart Rate and Diabetes-Related Wearables

Our data highlighted that the most researched type of MedTech wearables are those for heart and diabetes-related monitoring. In heart rate monitors, demand – however – has experienced a continual decrease since a sudden spike in interest in 2015. As fitness tracking smart watches have now fully entered the mass consumption market, most (if not all) of which track heart rate as standard, it is little surprise that search demand for heart rate monitors specifically has declined.

Diabetes-related wearables comprise mainly blood sugar monitors and insulin injectors, and search demand for these and related terms has risen 78.98% since 2015. This may be partly due to the continued rise of diabetes diagnoses in the UK, but it could also be attributed to a keener public awareness of the need to monitor blood sugar leading those who are not diagnosed diabetics to be conducting their own preemptive monitoring.

Fertility and Ovulation

We observed a 40.75% increase in search demand for terms relating to fertility and ovulation tracking wearables since 2015. However, despite a very strong interest in the FemTech market overall, generic search demand for fertility bracelets, patches and other wearable devices is still relatively low. Interestingly though, branded search terms for brands such as Ava, Natural Cycles and Ovusense is much higher (though we did witness a slowdown in the last 12 months).


Vision wearables generic search demand increased by 60.98% between 2015 and June 2019, whilst searches for Parkinsons wearables has shot up by nearly 100%. Demand for injectors has plateaued, despite a spike in 2017. Blood pressure wearables searches have risen most dramatically, from 1,940 in 2015 to 4,620 (138.14%).

Online Conversation and Sentiment

Due to the nature of conversations people generally tend to have online, overall sentiment is shifted towards the negative (people tend to talk about their conditions, rather than wearables specifically, only rarely mentioning specific brands). That said, mentions across all categories have increased significantly over the years.

We also analysed 421 articles in healthcare and pharmaceuticals publications, noting that terms around monitoring (such as sensors etc) account for over 20% of the topics concerned with the wearables industry. Those related to cardiac matters came in second (8.8%), while the fewest were around cancer (1.7%).

Understanding the Data

Counterpoint Research has estimated that smartwatch shipments jumped 48% YOY in Q1 of 2019. The Apple Watch continues to dominate the market, with its shipments growing 49% during the period. Fitbit, Samsung’s Galaxy watch and even Huawei are also seeing upward progress, but it is the Apple Watch’s inclusion of an ECG app that is of particular interest for the purposes of this article.

With increasing search demand across healthcare wearables generally on an upward trajectory, Apple’s continuing progress in prioritising health tracking functions is likely contributing to its robust market dominance. The promise of a smartwatch that will eventually fulfil all of an individual’s health tracking needs seems to lie squarely in Apple’s lap, with the public’s faith in the brand demonstrably persistent.

Apple is one brand that consistently reiterates its commitment to caring for its users’ personal data in a way that seems to be lacking in its competitors. And that issue of data privacy is a key driver in how widespread uptake of fitness and health tracking wearables will be as time goes on.

Several news articles in 2019 alone have focused on personal data issues related to wearable devices, specifically fitness trackers. “Researchers successfully used AI analysis tools to re-identify people using their activity tracker data by learning their daily footstep patterns and tying that info to demographic information, according to a recent study published in JAMA,” writes MedCityNews. BBC News ran a headline in March, ‘Health apps pose ‘unprecedented’ privacy risks’, whilst The Verge recently ran with ‘App makers are sharing sensitive personal information with Facebook but not telling users’, in which it identifies ovulation-tracking apps and a popular iOS heart rate tracker as key offenders.

The ultimate health tracking MedTech wearable will be the one which encompasses as many features as possible, whilst also being secure and trustworthy with a lockdown on personal data use. Considering the dearth of devices currently meeting either of these consumer demands, let alone both simultaneously, the true golden goose for investors in health tracking wearables will be the first to break the data privacy versus features stalemate. 

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