Insights from industry

Multi-Sensor Armband Technology to Monitor Health

Ivo Stivoric, CTO & Vice President of New Products at BodyMedia, Inc. talks to AZoSensors about Multi-Sensor Armband Technology to Monitor Health.

Can you briefly describe the inspiration behind the development of BodyMedia CORE 2 technology?

We’ve been making wearable body monitoring products for a while. BodyMedia is a 14 year old company and always on the quest to develop sleeker and more comfortable products for its consumers. There has been a convergence in the electronics and sensors space; lower power parts including memory, sensors, and wireless - so as this convergence has been happening, we’ve seen an opportunity to create something reduced in size and power.

We launched our first Bluetooth wireless product in 2010. Regarding the CORE 2 technology, we can work on a smaller form factor and so a couple of things come into place: we can do fashion plates on top of a small product because we we’re adding just a small amount of thickness to this product which is not going to affect the overall goal of making a sleeker low profile product because it’s not as noticeable.

In addition to CORE 2, we’ve also been working on a disposable BodyMedia VUE patch, which can be worn for up to 7 days to be used for trial or lifestyle assessment purposes.

From our experience of working on other products in the past, anything we would add to a device would be noticeable. So with this new monitor being so small, there’s a personalisation element to appreciate.

The product is also only .4 ounces or less when we’ve finished working with it so now that it’s pretty lightweight, you can hold onto it in many unique ways with the support of different strap materials and also jewellery bands – the mechanisms for holding the device to the body for accurate and diverse sensing is opened up.

The main inspiration for this product was based on technical and consumer reasons, but having a body monitor on you is so different to other things you wear on your body to make you more receptive and intelligent about yourself and your lifestyle and expand your capabilities (for example, like a pair of glasses or a watch – things that come with you on your daily life 24 hours a day and help you manage your day).

Where we have had to walk a delicate line between consumer and medical in our past, as soon as people have invested a level of trust in our product, they know that there’s a health and fitness finish in these products, we can actually take the lead and say that this product is just like other intelligent monitoring devices. Especially if you understand how different the market is today being ready for these types of body monitors vs. a decade ago.

Our consumers use our products 16 to 24 hours a day, which could be more time dedicated by the consumer compared to other types of accessories. This product has the potential to become customised for each individual especially if it is something that the consumers will wear at all times but to also make the consumer feel proud of this monitor, it becomes a “band of honour” that other people end up coming up to you and talking about.

The fashion story behind this product is “Sunday, Monday, Friday” (i.e., on Sunday I’m running around the park and I want to have a strap that maybe has a reflective print on it or looks sporty to reflect the situation I’m in; on Monday when at work, I may want a band that is more professional and blends in with my attire to make this product more subdued; and on Friday I want this product in a colour that reflects a more relaxed lifestyle or becomes appropriate for a more formal event that I am attending).

BodyMedia CORE 2 armband.

BodyMedia CORE 2 armband.

So, when we were looking for inspiration to design this product and make it more personable, we were focussing on fashion, jewellery, intelligent accessories and how other types of everyday wearable products are considered and then to finally have an opportunity to deliver on the back of this inspiration.

Why are over 70% of your consumers for this product female?

Reflecting on our demographics for this product, this is true. These consumers are not typically in their 20s, or people who go to the gym three times a day, and it’s not a product for when you just go to the gym; they are focussing more on weight loss, weight management and range in age between 38-55 years old.

The new monitoring device is targeted to a weight management market where the majority of the consumers are  typically female. We have also designed this product so that it can be applied to a broader audience and for broader needs (for example, helping people manage diabetes, sleeps concerns that they may have based on the way their lifestyle is having an impact on their sleep patterns). We’re even working with partners on solutions to help people who suffer from cardiac heart failure (CHF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

BodyMedia CORE 2 is a novel approach to monitoring an individual’s health. Can you describe how this technology is made?

BodyMedia’s products are categorised as class II medical devices both in Europe and the United States. We are an FDA registered company and our products are registered with the FDA as class II medical devices. This said, we make sure we are taking a lot of care in picking material that is biocompatible for this everyday wearable consumer product.

This product still has to handle sudden and harsh movements (e.g., jumping into a pool). In addition, as we prepare for launch of this product, we have conducted many clinical trials to map the sensors to algorithms already developed and new algorithms to enhance the product capabilities and the numbers of applications that this wearable body monitor can drive for our consumers.

The design stage is just the beginning for us. The development of this product is more expansive and comprehensive as a process regarding testing and validation than many of the sports and fitness products that are currently out in the market.

As this technology is a tracking device, it carries four particular sensors to help accurately monitor a person’s health and activity. Can you discuss the four sensors involved and the parameters that are measures to indicate the status of an individual’s health and activity level?

From one perspective, we’re using the sensors to understand the context of the individual in terms of their activity at any particular time during the day (i.e., are they lying down, biking, walking, are they driving, etc.). In another sense, we also apply the wearer’s physiology as multi-inputs into algorithms that derive very personable parameters for that individual (e.g., calories burned, minutes of physical activity, sleep patterns).

The aim is to have these sensors working together to have a contextual and physiological mapping for that individual which gives you a personable and accurate measure of what’s happening to your body for each day. The main sensors used in this product include an accelerometer, heat flux sensor, skin temperature sensors, and sensors to measure the galvanic skin response (which is basically looking at the conductivity of the skin and how it changes over time).

This device will have a new heart rate monitoring capability. How accurate is this feature and could the accuracy be affected by any confounding factors?

Even though this new unit is smaller and low powered, we’ve invented a way of getting ECG information from the upper arm, which if you were to talk to a cardiologist, you would be told that this is not possible. It is an exciting innovation for our platform.

What is interesting about this from a couple of different perspectives is that most people who would receive a measure of their heart rate would have to wear a chest strap in order to do so, which is only used at, for example, if they were going to the gym (maybe two to three times a week i.e., intermittently).

However, we feel we have the very first 24/7 heart rate monitor (that is monitoring the body’s electrical HR signal, or ECG) that is worn on the upper arm.

The way to enable this band is to have low power circuitry inside this unit that is supported by an accessory strap that has embedded (dry) electrodes and so when the user slides this strap up along the upper arm, the unit tunes to your body and physiological changes being measured are presented on a display or on a web platform showing you trends over a 24 hour time period of your heart rate and heart rate variability.

Yes, this has implications around fitness and yes this has implication of making our energy expenditure and levels of physical activity reporting more accurate.

We also have a chance now with the addition of heart rate variability to drive a better presentation of sleep activity, especially in the hours of deep sleep, with supporting analytics on the physiological changes during this period of sleep. This ties in well with our efforts to focus on weight loss patterns and how this is affected by sleep activity – all in the effort to maintain or manage a balanced lifestyle.

When people start to see how their sleep patterns change, the more interest they invest in this heart rate monitoring sensor and how they could adjust their sleep patterns. Stress indications will be another opportunity to explore and develop as a result of this new continuous sensing capability (just to give another example).

How accurate is this new heart rating monitoring device?

We are in clinical trials right now so our intent is to be as accurate as any monitoring device that is worn on the chest. The signals are not as easy to pick up as they are on the chest and also many of the monitors that have been worn on the chest are not necessarily the most accurate neither.

Our data is generally more about everyday scenarios, but it will also include the times during the day when your body is more active and so we want to make sure that we are monitoring these ranges.

What are the key features to the BodyMedia CORE 2 device?

The key features to this technology include:

  • An embedded heart rate sensor allowing for minute-by-minute capturing of the user’s heart rate.
  • Bluetooth Smart Ready technology enables live updates on body monitoring data.
  • Mobile and online applications – part of the total body monitoring package includes  a free mobile application which provides real time breakdown of the number of calories burned; an online activity manager responsible for gathering the data  on activity and dietary adjustments and calorie intake; and a personalised feedback system supported by a BodyMedia FIT coach recommends appropriate activity and dietary adjustments as a reflection of the user’s calorie expenditure.

Were there any development challenges to this new continuous Arm HR technology and, if so, how did you manage to overcome these obstacles?

The challenges that we have to overcome is the issue of muscle noise based on the fact that this device is on the upper arm and so we have to be able to filter and combat this noise out of the main data collection process for better accuracy of results. But we have a very robust and time tested algorithm development process that we are applying to the physiological challenges of this sensor capability and body location and we are seeing great results.

In addition, we have the inputs of our other sensors enabling even a clearer picture of the body’s signals, the context of the individual, and their performance levels.

How do you plan on incorporating additional applications for the monitoring of conditions such as diabetes and stress management and how will you test the efficacy of this during the development phase of this technology?

At the consumer level we have the opportunity to drive stress applications so heart rate variability becomes a key monitoring sensor for managing this condition. It is also useful to use this application to see how the person is dealing with their daily life and how this is having an impact on their stress management capabilities.

Our product understands the concept of what the individual using this unit is actually doing (for example, if you were to be sitting at a desk in the office, the body’s physiology will change to adapt to this situation). The concept of this new product opens up many new opportunities for new applications to be driven by our technology.

If you can have any one device that integrates multi-sensor technology, you have a much better product to achieving and tracking a more accurate journey of your health lifecycle – across different applications around body monitoring, whether your journey is around weight management, fitness, sleep management, stress management, diabetes management, entertainment, etc. The possibilities are endless.

In a society that is progressively more influenced by fashion and keeping healthy, you have managed to quite effectively develop a device that can be used as an accessory which potentially reaches out to a global market. With this in mind, how do you see this technology progressing on a commercial scale and competing with standard mobile health monitoring technology that is also accessible to the global audience?

There’s a casual health and fitness market and the products associated with this industry cannot appropriately expand into other types of markets.

What you’ll see with BodyMedia is that we can achieve this goal. Some media people have said that we have established a category in the market that meets the demands of a more personalised health monitoring product or that we are in fact the pioneers of this category, though we also understand that it’s going to be a competitive field and that there will not be one player in the market.

We have established a certain user and demographic that is looking for something that helps mark their journey to a healthier lifestyle. If it’s about counting steps then there are many products currently on the market that allow for this data to be managed about the individual.

My thesis is that consumers (and partners) are looking for solutions that work across a variety of consumer and patient needs – and that there might not be a  killer application but that there might be a number of killer applications for the right wearable body monitor to service its user across all of their life needs, so if people are going to be wearing something 24/7 then it has to have value across their lifestyle.

How do you see mobile sensor technology shaping the way we live as a society over the next decade?

These sensing products are providing a nice augmentative tool and a nice enabling tool for even more than the health care applications that they are focused on today. What is great about the way the market space is unfolding and the awareness that the media is bringing to the space is that consumers are no longer thinking of wearing a device only when they are sick or diagnosed with a disease.

There is a consumer product oriented way of looking at the world now and more people are starting to take pride in their health. It’s about feeling proud of keeping track of their health and fitness, hence why we are leaning more on the consumer side of the equation. Today it is around healthcare, tomorrow you will see these technologies utilized more and more around home automation, gaming and entertainment, social networking, even dating.

About Ivo Stivoric

Ivo Stivoric

As an innovator and visionary in multi-sensor wearables, John (Ivo) Stivoric is internationally recognized for helping to develop today's consumer body monitoring category. In 1999, as one of the original founders of BodyMedia, he applied his vision for the life-changing BodyMedia technology to catalyze the application of body monitoring in the medical and consumer lifestyle management industries.

Today as CTO & VP of New Products for BodyMedia, he is spearheading the rapid expansion of the product line across a wide-range of healthcare applications such as disease management and remote care. By integrating new technologies and enhancements that build upon the product's proven efficacy and robust clinical outcomes, BodyMedia is ushering in the next evolution in the category with product innovation and industry partnerships that will play an important role in the future of healthcare.

Ivo's industry work includes involvement with two interdisciplinary studios: co-founder of the Interaction Design Studio at the Institute for Complex Engineered Systems, and co-director of the award-winning Mobile + Wearable Computing Design Studio at the Engineering Design Research Center at Carnegie Mellon University.

Ivo also holds a M.S. in Interaction Design with a concentration in Integrated Product Development and a B.F.A. in Industrial Design, with a concentration in sculpture, from Carnegie Mellon. Recently, Ivo was named on the EE Times 40 as one of forty innovators building the foundation of the next-gen electronics industry.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.


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