Consumer technology titan LG Electronics (KRX:066570) entered the healthcare game for the 1st time with the announcement of its heart-rate-monitoring earphones that combine music with wearable fitness monitoring and smartphone-based record-keeping.
The South Korean company has said that the devices are coming to market "soon," but they’ll be out before similar technology rumored from rival tech giant Apple (NSDQ:AAPL). A patent granted to Apple in February revealed that the company was working on sensor-enabled earphones that could track physical activity and physiological response.
LG’s HRM earphones provide real-time heart rate monitoring, wireless data processing, voice guidance and hi-fidelity sound, according to the company. The device also communicates with LG’s Lifeband Touch, a wrist-worn activity tracker that further communicates with the LG Fitness smartphone app to record and track activity.
Consumer tech companies are increasingly attracted healthcare , and medtech titan Medtronic is acutely aware of their looming presence.
Verizon (NYSE:VZ), Qualcomm (NSDQ:QCOM) and Samsung (LON:BC94) all made a showing at this year’s Heart Rhythm Society conference in San Francisco, touting their various hardware and software solutions to healthcare challenges. Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) senior vice president for medicine and technology told an audience of medtech insiders this month that the real future competition for the industry will come from consumer tech giants.
"Our arch-competitor in 20 years will not be Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX) or St. Jude Medical (NYSE:STJ) or Covidien (NYSE:COV) or HeartWare (NSDQ:HTWR). It will be Google (NSDQ:GOOG). I am certain of it," Oesterle told the audience at MassMEDIC’s annual conference in Boston.
"We spend $1.5 billion a year on R&D at Medtronic – and it’s mostly D," he added. "Google is spending $8 billion a year on R&D and, as far as I can tell, it’s mostly R."
Many mobile tech makers are already getting into the game, dipping their toes into healthcare technologies. Google’s secretive X Lab recently revealed its work on a "smart" contact lens, designed to monitor blood glucose levels in tears rather than through the usual finger-prick blood testing.
Verizon late last year made its 1st move in the healthcare market, announcing FDA clearance of its Converged Health Management remote patient monitoring system. The technology links up different biometric devices that the patient can wear at home, in care settings or during their daily lives.
Samsung earlier this year announced mHealth features for new models of its Gear smartphone-connected watches, which include heart rate sensors and the company’s FDA-cleared S Health app. The company’s Galaxy S5 phones also have a built-in heart-rate sensor, which very nearly got the company into a snag with South Korean regulators. The country’s FDA ultimately determined that the smartphone fell within national definitions of a medical device, but decided to revise the language of the law rather than force the technology to subscribe to medical device review processing.