Author(s): Peter Bryer
Almost 25 percent of Japan's population is above the age of 65, compared with about 16 percent in the UK and 15 percent in the US. Populations around the world are getting older, but Japan is a few steps ahead. This makes the region a leading gauge for mobile healthcare and sensor-filled devices. Hardware is being used to address demographic shifts.
Toshiba recently introduced a pair of wrist-worn trackers intended specifically to keep seniors connected and accessible. The Silmee W20 and Silmee W21 are professional-level devices that enable caregivers to monitor and log the activity of the wearer.
The trackers record heart rate, skin temperature, UV exposure and sleep, and are able to connect to Android or iOS phones via Bluetooth. Both have an emergency button to alert physicians or family if needed. The Silmee W21 contains a GPS chipset for remote location tracking.
The Toshiba Silmee W20 can be ordered online in Japan for $193, and the W21 will cost about $225. Shipping will begin in a few weeks.
Toshiba has announced a number of wearable products this year under the sub-brand Silmee, which stands for Smart Intelligent Monitor Engine and Ecosystem. Toshiba's ambitions in wearables approach the healthcare domain, with products more akin to medical devices than those built for casual use.
At CES 2015 in January, Toshiba introduced a wearable able to track the user's quality of sleep. The device, simply called the Silmee, attaches to the skin at night and contains sensors to monitor heartbeat, blood flow and skin temperature, and which can log patterns during sleep. Toshiba has applied for US Food and Drug Administration approval of the sleep tracker, which would allow the company to market it as a medical device rather than a consumer product.
CCS Insight recently forecast that the wearables market will reach 245 million units globally by 2019, generating $25 billion in revenue that year (see Press Release: Wearables Market to Be Worth $25 Billion by 2019). Wearables have become a mainstream business addressing niche needs. Opportunities in senior care — providing professional-grade monitoring wearables to support caregivers and loved ones — are supported by demographic shifts and increased longevity. Product certification requirements have to be considered — a complication that distinguishes healthcare from well-being and changes the target market for any device.
Toshiba isn't a brand closely associated with wearables, but the company is learning from changes in its home market. Lessons studied there will certainly be portable around the globe in the coming decade.