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Wearables will be ‘AI Doctors’ from the cloud in 5 years – Expert

Wearables will develop to become much more serious medical devices within the next 5 years, potentially to the point where they act as ‘AI Doctors’ from the cloud, according to Rockley Photonics CEO, Andrew Rickman.

Speaking at Wareable’s Future of Wearables event, Rickman said that wearables are currently in a state of flux with no manufacturer having a clear vision, but this will soon change.

“We’re in a process of deciding what is what and what they are really trying to do. [When that’s done] I think we’ll see profoundly different devices with continuous monitoring of our health, providing this ability to have an AI Doctor looking over you from the cloud and taking all the benefits that we’ve talked about,” he explained.

“From our perspective [wearables will become] very [feature] rich for monitoring your health.”

His prediction is in line with current product development in the wearable space. Apple has been marketing its watches as “wellness trackers” for close to half a decade. The firm continues to push the Apple Watch 7’s ECG tracker as a key selling point that can help users spot early signs of heart trouble. Samsung released the Galaxy Watch 4 last year, which features a similar sensor.

Rickman continued to say that while these features are useful, the hardware is still underdeveloped and will require improvements to act as the AI Doctor that he and his firm envision appearing in the near future.

“I look at the hardware today and it is very limited. As we talked about, there’s ECG – two electrode LEDs measure your heart rate and your blood oxygen – and accelerometers measuring step… and there are many of them that are starting with glucose and lactate measuring alcohol as well.“

He added that firms will need to develop more intelligent algorithms to read the data being collected, as well as improve the sensors to truly develop next generation features: “It’s just a matter of human trials, development of the algorithms and touring before we add more to the list.”

Rickman flagged blood alcohol as another potential measurement wearables could help with: “[Blood alcohol] is something that most people can benefit from […] There’s legislation coming in the US where basically, you’ve got to be tested for alcohol, before you can drive a car.”

He continued: “so if your device is actually measuring alcohol, then it’ll let you turn the car on [if you’re under the limit]. If you’re over the limit, you want to turn the car on, it checks a list of biomarkers and says no.”

Rickman noted that his firm is already working with major smartwatch providers to implement the tech in the near future, adding that the biomarkers / data the devices collect would eventually help early diagnosis of a variety of conditions.

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