Innovations in Health and Smartphone Technology

By , Contributor

Much emphasis has been placed on the entertainment and networking applications of smartphones, but it’s worth noting that you can use your phone to keep track of your health as well. Some phones, like the Samsung SIV, have built-in sensors and pedometers, and even have the option for supplementary accessories like a heart rate monitor.

That doesn’t mean that you have to run out and trade in your existing phone for a new one, though. There’s a fair amount of health apps available for iOS and Android users, ranging from simple instructional videos and calorie counters to full-on fitness trackers. Several of my cousins swear by MyFitnessPal, which allows you to keep track of the calories you consume versus the exercise you put in. Aside from the unbeatable price (it’s free!), it has a social aspect to it since it lets you share your progress with your friends, who’ll double as your diet support group.

While these are cool and useful, they’re all rather mainstream. Let’s take a look at three noteworthy innovations that’ll take your everyday smartphone to a different level—at least in terms of health applications:

HAPIfork

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Lately, I find myself rather intrigued by several crowdfunding campaigns. Some are mind-blowingly creative, others sentimental and touching. Then there are those whose genius lies in their simplicity and practicality. HAPIfork falls into the latter category.

HAPILABS created this product to prevent us from doing something that is easy and natural to do—overeat. Their concept operates under the logic that the faster you eat, the more food you end up eating, and the greater chance you have of gaining unwanted weight. HAPIfork helps you keep track of your pace of eating by giving a gentle vibration to warn you if you’re eating too fast. This souped-up utensil also connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and USB, and you can use the accompanying app to access your meal stats along with a free coaching program that’ll help you develop healthier eating habits.

i-limb Prosthetic Hand

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Fans of will.i.am, Britney Spears and music videos in general have probably seen this futuristic-looking prosthetic in the “Scream and Shout” video. I, on the other hand, first saw it earlier today while I was waiting for my doctor’s appointment. In between updates about the Boston Marathon bombing, CNN featured the i-limb, what is touted to be the closest thing to a real hand.

What sets the i-limb apart from other prosthetics is that it has five individually-powered articulating digits, which allow for a greater range of grips aside from the standard claw-like pincer grip of older units. The hand gets its directions from muscle signals of the residual arm as monitored by electrical sensors. Touch Bionics, the group behind this invention, has also developed an upgraded model called the i-limb ultra revolution, which utilizes their biosim iOS app to control the hand’s movements and strength of grip based on 24 working presets. Amazing, right? It’s definitely—and literally—giving a helping hand to those who in need of a limb. Now, if only they could bring down that hefty price tag (according to CNN, the cost in dollars is roughly around a hundred grand).

EPFL’s Under the Skin Implant

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Here’s something that’s still in the works and remains unnamed but has the potential to greatly impact the health industry. A team of scientists from Switzerland’s EPFL developed a tiny implant prototype that contains five sensors which can analyze targeted substances in your blood. The results are sent to your doctor’s smartphone and are used to monitor cholesterol and glucose levels, along with the effects of chemotherapy on a specific patient. For patients with chronic illness, this may forestall the possibility of complications or heart attacks by alerting them of symptoms before they emerge.

Personally, I’m a bit leery about having something embedded under my skin, but if it’ll help me in the long run (and remove the need for additional blood tests), I’m all for it. Unfortunately though, we have to wait around four years until this is made commercially available. Still, that’s something to look out for—and hopefully, this will lead to more breakthroughs in health technology.

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Nancy Perkins, a full-time mommy wannabe, has been a freelance online writer for two years now. She loves sharing information on health, business, technology, fashion, women's issues and motherhood. Nancy lives life to its fullest each day and is dreaming of retiring on an island she will someday own.

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