Mobile apps are turning smartphones into personal doctors, with users able to measure heart rate, blood pressure and even blood sugar. But will it change our behaviour? Ivor Bennett reports from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Going for a run will never quite be the same again. That's if you're wearing one of these. The Fitbit Surge - a wireless device that measures heart rate, calories, distance and quality of sleep. Fitbit's Europe VP Gareth Jones. SOUNDBITE (English) GARETH JONES, EMEA VP FITBIT, SAYING: "They've already done 14,000 steps, they've done 10 kilometres. It might even be this lady on the treadmill. But you can see it's picking up every step, it's picking up every time she moves, and it's picking it up real time." Unlike many other wearables, this doesn't need a chest strap. Instead, tiny LEDs measure the flow of blood through the body. The information then transmitted to an app. It's not just fitness benefiting from advances in the mobile sector. It's healthcare too. Paul Zollinger-Read is chief medical officer at BUPA. SOUNDBITE (English) DR PAUL ZOLLINGER-READ, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, BUPA, SAYING: "What we're starting to see with these sorts of devices that monitor your functions. We're starting to be able to tell disease before you ever get it. So we're shifting from a 'patch you up' to an 'understand your risks, and manage those risks', so essentially a wellness society. That's a huge transformation." This app measures blood pressure. While Google are developing contact lenses to detect blood sugar. The real-time data transforming your phone into a virtual doctor. The challenge now is to change behaviour. For Swiss firm Hocoma, the answer is gamification. Its Valedo gadget monitors posture through sensors stuck to the chest and lower back. It recommends exercises through a video game. A bluetooth connection monitoring the body's movements to within 1 degrees. Product Manager Robert Mackenzie. SOUNDBITE (English) ROBERT MACKENZIE, PRODUCT MANAGER, HOCOMA, SAYING: "People usually spend hundreds to thousands of dollars each year anyway by themselves trying to fix this problem through surgery or medication or whatever. and many of these solutions don't work for everybody so this is an alternative to make it measurable and fun to do these exercises." Fitbit also use the gaming model providing challenges for multiple users. The phrase 'wearing your heart on your sleeve' suddenly has a whole new meaning.