You might be thinking that wearable health technology is the cutting edge of mobile medicine, but have you heard of “nearables”? That’s right – not all of the nearly 350 different “wearables” on the market can actually be worn. With a growing list that includes smart water bottles, pacifiers, and soap, mHealth technology is more diverse than you might think.

ŌURA is a smart ring designed to help you sleep and perform better.

Last year saw nearly 46 million shipments of wearable and nearable devices to consumers – a number that’s expected to reach 130 million by 2019. Advocates say that these increasingly popular devices “remove the complexities and inefficiencies of facility-based care,” replacing traditional health care delivery with “on-demand, self-directed diagnostics and personalized therapeutics.”

New waves of disruptive wearables are usually showcased at venues like the annual mHealth Summit and Helsinki’s Slush Fair, but this year a new UNICEF-funded Wearables Challenge for Good added some variety to the list, focusing on wearables and sensor technology for people in resource constrained environments. With some innovative ‘low-tech’ solutions added to a mix of data-driven personalized care devices, wearables have gotten truly creative.

Here are five mHealth ‘wearables’ that you might not have heard about:

  1. ŌURA is a ring-sized wellness computer designed to help you sleep and perform better. The ŌURA ring gathers physiological and behavioral data as well as your input about how you feel to learn about your lifestyle. It communicates observations and suggestions through a mobile app that visualizes the measured data, provides personalized recommendations, and shows trends, details and changes over time.
  2. SoaPen is a “soap crayon” designed to encourage hand-washing in children and reduce infant mortality rates and the spread of disease. It’s a ‘wearable’ because teachers and parents can draw or write with soap on students’ hands, marking out critical cleaning areas that the child will “enthusiastically wash off with the visually clear reward of unmarked hands.” SoaPen challenges the idea that mHealth concepts have to be complex or even technological to tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems.
  3. LifeFuels is a Smart Nutrition Bottle loaded with “fuelpods” that infuse vitamins and nutrition into your water. The water bottle is paired with an app that learns your behavior and recommends the right pods for your different activities and workouts. LifeFuels not only communicates with your smartphone, it charges wirelessly and integrates with leading fitness bands too.
  4. Pacif-i is a smart pacifier that allows you to monitor your baby’s temperature, keep track of medications, and determine the pacifier’s location from your smartphone. It is marketed as “the world’s smartest pacifier” and targeted towards busy parents.
  5. Khushi Baby is a digital necklace that communicates with a mobile app designed for community health workers in rural communities. By scanning a patient chip, health workers can read, act upon, and update patient data that is later synced to an analytics dashboard on the cloud. Khushi Baby is not just a novel communication concept based around traditional jewelry worn by children for spiritual protection. The concept won UNICEF’s first Wearables Challenge for Good contest.
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