Digital Health

Market Drivers and Challenges for Connected Health Solutions in the Smart Home

by Harry Wang | Dec. 22, 2015

Extending a smart home platform to support connected health applications and services is a natural pathway forward for most smart home platform providers. Consumers spend less than 1% of their time interacting with the healthcare system; home, on the other hand, is where consumers spend most of time with their family, care for themselves and others, and enjoy life—food, drink, exercise, sleep—all experiences that also impact their health and wellbeing. With broadband Internet connection to the home and an explosive number of IoT applications springing up, consumers now have the opportunity to stay in the comfort of their home to receive care. Specific examples related to health and well-being include the following:

  • Remote health monitoring: Instead of going to a clinic for a checkup, a patient can “visit” his/her doctor online and the doctor can use remote monitoring technology to diagnose conditions, offer advice on preventive care, or provide feedback to those recently hospitalized and now in the rehab process.
  • In-home personal training: With connected fitness devices and apps, consumers can stay in the home exercising to the instructions from a virtual trainer or following a real trainer via live or on-demand video streaming. Through social networking features built into apps or Web services, consumers can interact with friends virtually and enjoy a similarly personal touch to their exercise experience.
  • Healthy behavior tracking: For each living area in the home, unique health and wellness behaviors can be tracked and quantified to improve the overall wellbeing of an individual or a family. For instance, a smart bathroom helps consumers become more aware of weight and personal hygiene through connected “things” such as a weight scale, a toothbrush, a dressing mirror, a toilet, and even a shower head with built-in water temperature sensors.
  • Improved personal safety: Personal care and wellbeing also incorporate reducing home hazards, responding to personal injury or emergency, and providing peace of mind to family members and caregivers. A smart home can accommodate such needs by connecting home safety sensors and then identifying patterns to prevent hazardous events or responding to emergencies quickly and efficiently.

These connected health use categories benefit from several consumer trends, technology advances, and sector-unique factors. However, for the smart home industry, in order to integrate and then offer connected health experiences, significant challenges exist around both technology and business issues.

Market Drivers

There are well-publicized trends on aging populations and the rising incidence of chronic conditions in both developed and developing nations. The United Nations’ report on aging predicts that the combined senior populations in eight industrialized countries plus China and India will more than triple its 2013 size. In many countries and regions, elderly citizens living alone have created social support challenges and generated concerns about health and well-being needs, particularly for underprivileged citizens. The home care model, complemented by a good mix of public services, community resources, family support, and private insurance, appears the most viable model for eldercare going forward.

Worldwide, care model changes underscore the need to deliver care services to the home instead of in a hospital/clinic. Providers are encouraged to offer care services proactively instead of reactively and to educate patients about necessary lifestyle changes. Engagement efforts can be enhanced by technologies and applications that connect consumers with their care providers from the comfort of their home, informing consumers of good choices as appropriate, and documenting outcomes and progress.

On the technology side, processor power, battery life, open standards, and cloud computing are transforming how devices and applications are built and enabled. Consumers benefit from the convenience, efficiency, and ubiquity of these technology advances. Although business interests may keep technologies and platforms from being truly open and interoperable, technology itself offers opportunities for new entrants to disrupt incumbents’ market value chain and push for a more open and collaborative approach to market opportunities. In the connected health industry, for example, traditional health technology providers are ditching proprietary and cumbersome technologies and embracing apps, cloud services, and consumer-friendly designs in order to compete with new-generation devices and application developers.

Finally, it is consumers’ awakening to the need to manage their health and wellness that drives this market. More than 32 million U.S. consumers will actively track their personal health and fitness online or via mobile by 2016. Technologies open the door for consumers to have new and better experiences; information helps them make smarter and timelier decisions; economic reality and personal health status cause them to seek effective yet economical means for better health. Smart home devices and applications appeal to consumers’ thirst for knowledge; their interaction with them offers crossover opportunities to solve health and wellness challenges.

Market Challenges

Technology challenges are no longer only about competing connectivity standards and unintuitive UI designs. Cost of integration, on the other hand, could still make devices/services less affordable than necessary to meet mass market demand. A big chunk of the integration cost today is caused by the hurdle to balance different sets of requirements for smart home and connected health applications. Because these risks affect technology choices and system designs, developers must weigh their R&D decisions carefully against market opportunities.

Compared with technology challenges, business model challenges are even more complex and difficult to address. Connected health applications and services will eventually transform one of the most fragmented and complex market ecosystems. However, even if smart home platform developers support a good menu of connected health applications, their customers may find their paths to revenues frosty and twisted if they don’t know how to navigate the system or they select the wrong partner as guide.

Players hoping to capitalize on the natural crossover opportunities that exist between the smart home and connected health applications need to screen market opportunities through vigorous technology assessment, risk analysis, and business model evaluation. It is recommended that market opportunities not be assessed purely based on traditional metrics. Like in the smart home industry, revenue model innovations and strategic partnerships of mutual interest will be key to opening up growth opportunities.

Harry Wang

Harry Wang

Senior Director of Research

Harry Wang oversees Parks Associates’ mobility and apps research, which covers mobile/wearable devices and services, apps and APIs, and mobile commerce/marketing, payment, and connected car industries. He is also the founder and lead analyst of Parks Associates’ digital health research program since its inception in 2006. He and his team cover emerging health technologies, applications, and services in areas such as chronic/preventive care, independent living, wellness and fitness, and virtual/convenience care.

Harry has published more than 40 industry reports and white papers and presented his mobility and digital health research at numerous industry events including CES, Mobile World Congress, CTIA, Open Mobile Summit, World Health Congress, the American Telemedicine Association Annual Trade Show, and Parks Associates’ CONNECTIONS™ and Connected Health Summit conferences.

Harry earned his MS degree in marketing research from the University of Texas at Arlington. He also holds an MBA degree in finance from Texas Christian University and a BA degree in international business from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, P.R. China.

Industry Expertise: Digital Health Products and Services, Portable and Mobile Access Platforms and Applications, Digital Imaging Products and Services

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