Freeman Cebu Business

Wearable sensors ramp up longevity industry

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel Abalos - The Freeman

As the year starts, most of us make it a point to make resolutions. Resolutions that are, mostly, for something that lead to better health, for a longer life. So that, more likely, the issue on longevity will dominate in the coming years.

The truth is, a decade ago, a study on the economic impact of longevity was already conducted by Oxford Economics. They did a study for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in the USA for the country’s population who are aged 50 years old and beyond.  Collectively, they call the contribution of this group as Longevity Economy. In its release in 2013, its contribution was estimated to be about US$7.1 trillion in annual economic activity. In 2015 or in just about two years, the Longevity Economy’s size was already about US$7.6 trillion. If it were a country, it should have been the third largest economy in the world.

Notably, the report said that “it is the sum of all economic activity driven by the needs of Americans aged 50 and older, including both the products and services they purchase directly and the further economic activity this spending generates.” The “outsized contribution reflects the changing demographics, wealth, and spending patterns of the 50 and older population as the lifespan increases and the Longevity Economy becomes more pervasive and central to economic and social policies”, it added.

For proper perspective, we wish to reiterate that by 2015, according to the report, “there were more than 1.6 billion people in the world who were part of the 50 and beyond age group.”  It is projected that by 2050, this number shall double to nearly 3.2 billion people.

Undoubtedly, most of them are still employed and are earning wages and are not only fueling demand but are still directly paying taxes to the government. Others are active entrepreneurs and investors and are not just producing goods and services but are instrumental in providing jobs to the younger generations. Clearly, therefore, while it is true that some are idle or bedridden, most of them are huge contributors of valuable economic activities.

Indeed, people are now living longer than before. The number will surely grow.   Consequently, this group’s spending side will increase too. As many startups are targeting this age group with products and services that not only extend their lives but let them live a healthy and enjoyable one, the rise of the longevity industry will be inevitable.

For one, in becoming seniors, “aging gracefully” has become a motto. Indeed, simply counting one’s wrinkles as the day unfolds isn’t a good way of aging. Consequently, many startups are now creating new products and services that extend healthy and fun-filled life years.

So that, two years ago, we saw the rise of tech-based startups on assistive technology (or agetech) where “the elderly are able to live self-sufficiently for longer with smart devices that automatically dispense medication, technologies that monitor cognitive skills and networking apps that improve social connectivity”.

However, today, as the millennials and Gen Zs are trying to outpace older generations, lifestyle changes have become so apparent and sometimes untenable. Together with a deteriorating environment, chronic diseases abound and obesity among younger population has worsened. So that, new technologies have emerged and some existing ones have found stiff competition from the new players.

So prevalent nowadays are the wearable sensors. This is due to the ease by which we, regardless of ages, can monitor our health and fitness. Well, we are familiar with Apple and Huawei watches. Lately, however, Google joined the race with its Google pixel watch. These are “activity trackers and monitors that provide real-time information on a person’s well-being.”

Remarkably, techies have become more creative and practical these days. They are also into wearable sensors that no one misses, clothes. Gladly, a “newly designed conductive thread could be a game changer in the fabrication and commercialization of wearable sensors.” The researchers at Imperial College London designed a new thread called PECOTEX. Low-cost, it shall surely lead in “creating embedded wearable sensors”. Markedly, such “devices can be used in everything from monitoring sleep and exercise to diagnosing or assisting those with medical conditions.”

So affordable, a “3 feet of PECOTEX thread costs $0.15.” This size is enough to create “10 sensors for integration into everyday clothing items such as T-shirts or face masks.”

Truly, a game changer. A boon to the longevity industry.


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