The Growing Hipness of Mobile Wellness

Your mobile wireless carrier may soon have a say in the way you think about health and wellness. AT&T, through its Emerging Devices unit, plans to offer for sale health-tracking clothing equipped with wireless sensors that enable you to track your heart rate, body temperature and other vital signs -- and then send all this data to a site where a physician can access it. The first offering will be a version of the E39 body compression shirt, originally designed by Under Armour for the NFL scouting combines and other world-class athletic competitions. Now imagine yourself as a high-performance weekend athlete, effortlessly transmitting your heart rate, skin temperature and activity levels to the Web.

E39sensorThat the “smart fitness” trend – which can be traced back to the Fitbit tracker – is now transforming into a broader “e-wellness” movement is not a coincidence. The biggest wireless network carriers - like AT&T – are under intense pressure to produce new revenue streams. The total mobile Internet penetration rates at these companies have hit a saturation point. They can advertise as much as they want, but there’s simply no one else who needs another mobile phone these days.

That’s where new product offerings like the E39 health-tracking shirt fit into the revenue equation – they are a way of ensuring additional usage of the nation’s wireless networks. While smart health-tracking devices and gadgets like the Fitbit have been around for nearly 3 years now, where they can start making money for the big AT&T’s of the world is when they can encourage users to transmit data non-stop. Constant, real-time information about heart rate and skin temperature once was the exclusive preserve of the world-class athlete. Now, it's something that appeals to the hip, under-30 crowd -- the same people who buy Under Armour and Nike and Adidas.

However, there's an untapped new market for these offerings. Consider the huge population of Americans who have medical ailments or suffer from symptoms of chronic illness. If you have a medical ailment or are concerned about your health, the ability to keep medical providers updated with this information on a 24/7 basis suddenly sounds like the greatest thing ever invented. When it’s framed in this way, there’s a willing audience of new users who might never have previously considered buying a new mobile device: think of senior citizens who wouldn’t mind other people monitoring their condition around the clock. Or, think of first-responders the same way you might world-class athletes: they are not worried about their health -- they simply want to push themselves to the limit on every play.

At a time when many Americans don’t even make time for their annual physical exam, the idea of being able to seamlessly transmit new types of health data to a physician makes sense. With the entrance of players like Under Armour and Jawbone into the market, it’s certain that these devices are not going to be annoying pieces of hardware that you strap to your body – they are going to be well-designed and aesthetically-pleasing pieces of high tech that seamlessly integrate into your lifestyle. Now that we’re approaching an intersection of technology, design and health, we could be witnessing an era where there’s a certain amount of hipness associated with wellness – and that could pay off big in reducing the nation’s future healthcare costs.

Woman In Training Equipment / Shutterstock

Stress is contagious–but resilience can be too

The way that you think about stress can actually transform the effect that it has on you – and others.

Big Think Edge
  • Stress is contagious, and the higher up in an organization you are the more your stress will be noticed and felt by others.
  • Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Think of the closest planet to Earth... Wrong! Think again!

Three scientists publish paper proving that not Venus but Mercury is the closest planet to Earth

Strange Maps
  • Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbour must be planet two of four, right?
  • Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
  • Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbour is... Mercury!
Keep reading Show less

Horseshoe crabs are captured for their blue blood. That practice will soon be over.

The blood of horseshoe crabs is harvested on a massive scale in order to retrieve a cell critical to medical research. However, recent innovations might make this practice obsolete.

An Atlantic horseshoe crab in an aquarium. Photo: Domdomegg via Wikimedia Commons.
Surprising Science
  • Horseshoe crabs' blue blood is so valuable that a quart of it can be sold for $15,000.
  • This is because it contains a molecule that is crucial to the medical research community.
  • Today, however, new innovations have resulted in a synthetic substitute that may end the practice of farming horseshoe crabs for their blood.
Keep reading Show less

10 novels that brilliantly capture the American experience

The distance between the American dream and reality is expressed best through literature.

American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin poses at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979. (Photo: Ralph Gatti/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Literature expands our ability to feel empathy and inspires compassion.
  • These ten novels tackle some facet of the American experience.
  • The list includes a fictional retelling of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard and hiding out in inner city Newark.
Keep reading Show less