Forget About The Apple Watch, Implantables Are Coming

Forget About The Apple Watch, Implantables Are Coming
7/31/2015 @ 11:37AM

That is right, the implantable. In the past decade of tech innovation, connectivity has been the name of the game. Call your friend in the middle of the night in Antarctica. Facetime with your sister on vacation in India. Talk about the movie you saw with friends in London. Anything is possible with the push of a button and now with the Apple Watch, you can do it all with the twist of a dial. But this is just the beginning of what Silicon Valley has in store for us in the name of connectivity. We’re about to enter the next level of high tech innovation – connecting with yourself.

And the most efficient and accurate way to do that is with the next wave of sensor based smart devices – those you can implant into your body. It might sound like something you’d see in a science fiction movie, but my prediction is that in the next three to five years, implantable devices will become about as normal as wearing the latest watch.

The movement into an era of implantables is already in full swing with wearables and attachables like FitBit. These are just the first generation of gadgets that go beyond monitoring and measuring your body movements. Startups like Thync are pushing the envelope with their neurosignaling patch that uses low voltage electrical currents to alter a person’s mood and energy. News of Google’s smart contact lens has the tech industry excited to see how they might monitor a person’s glucose levels or other vital signs with the technology. And these are just the daily applications. Developments in the world of healthcare are reaching new heights. Some devices are not only preventative, they can also improve conditions and even save lives.

A startup out of Sylmar, California has developed a bionic eye, or retinal implant that allows the blind to see. Companies like Proteus Digital Health are working on implantable “smart pills.” These smart pills work with Bluetooth to inform doctors and family members if a patient has taken his or her medicine. The problem of adherence – patients not taking their medicine as prescribed – costs the country nearly $300 billion annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Smart pills could help save lives, but they could also save money. That’s smart business. And it’s only the beginning.

The federal government has also jumped on the bandwagon in support of new scientific discoveries. The White House’s “BRAIN” Initiative pulled together over $300 million in funding from technology firms, academic institutions and scientists to better understand the human mind – and affect it. They aim to find treatments for Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, depression and more. New brain implantables that use a wireless remote control to deliver drugs and light are already in the testing process. One such interface, the BATTELLE Neurolife, is designed to let the brain bypass the spinal cord. The smaller-than-a-pea sized chip was recently implanted into a quadriplegic’s brain. The device interprets his brain signals and works with an electrode stimulation sleeve that helps the patient move muscles.

Implantables can save lives, improve health, prevent diseases and even begin to make us superhuman. But with all great opportunities also comes increased risk and potential for harm. With implantables, the stakes are high. The data collected with implantable devices is so personal. So, the risk of hacking puts everyone associated with your business – investors, buyers and other businesses – on edge. In order to assuage their fears and prevent harm, security at every level must be airtight. Further, implantables require tremendous quality and safety controls to prevent a whole range of potential harm.

The pros and cons associated with each new innovation in implantables are significant. And the market is moving fast – there is a lot of opportunity. If you want to start a company in the space, I would encourage you to consider building one that mitigates the negative risks. You could address the need for quality controls and safeguards. Or, you could focus on the security, and build a business to protect consumers. As much as people will pay to improve and enhance their health, they will also pay to protect it. Let’s find solutions for the risks implantables bring, so we can fully enjoy the benefits.


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