Health wearables have been a bit of a passion project for founder and CEO of Alea Gaming, Alexandre Tomic. With testing starting in Q2 next year, he sits down with Block to discuss why these devices are on track to change the face of healthcare
Aggregating wearables is a lot like aggregating games – something that CEO and founder of Alea Gaming, Alexandre Tomic, has solid experience in. He is himself a keen advocate and early adopter of the technology, a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, so to speak, having worn health trackers for the past two years.
The average person today probably owns several different health tracking devices, he explains. Oura rings, Apple Watches, Fitbits. “When we first started looking into wearables we realised that while they may have their own way of doing things, essentially, they do the same thing. So, the question is, how can we take all this data and aggregate it into meaningful, useful information?”
The solution? Alea has decided to build its own wearable with its own aggregator dashboard – blending all these devices into one super tracker. They’re also partnering with a company called Valencell, which is providing the sensors for the device.
Health wearables have always been a bit trendy though, haven’t they? Are people actually becoming more conscious about their health?
Alex is confident it has a future, especially as people become more invested in optimising the way their bodies function, and in taking a leading role in shaping their future. They are a new breed of hackers, using their body in the most effective way to intuitively achieve good health and increased longevity. Although, as he explains – this is not necessarily about living longer, about living to an age where you can still function perfectly. “It’s a very interesting and effective technology. We need to live longer and we need to live better.”
He goes on to explain how having access to real-time biofeedback can help you make more conscious decisions about your behaviour. One of the first things people notice, he says, is the effect your heart rate can have on your ability to go about your day-to-day life. Heavy alcohol consumption, for example, will have a clear and noticeable effect on your sleep quality – in the face of this kind of feedback, most people naturally start adjusting their behaviour.
“Imagine how much willpower it would take to make these changes if you didn’t have that information at your fingertips. When data can illustrate the situation in real-time, the way your body reacts to good and bad habits, it’s easier to make a good decision. When you know what’s happening you know what you need to do. You naturally become healthier because you can see the results every day.”
There’s also a growing demand for consumers to have more control over their data. “I believe the road we’re going down is that more and more people are going to want access to their data – to exert more control over their health.”
Although you will still go to your doctor, he says, you can now take your dashboard to your appointment, you can pinpoint the exact moment’s symptoms occur – even something as mundane as anxiety-related palpitations can be anticipated and avoided. It’s a much more proactive approach.
“I think that many issues could be better solved through data and machine learning. There’s no need for a machine to spend years gaining medical experience, it doesn’t face the same limitations – biometrical digitalisation can compute info and predict patterns in a way a human simply cannot. Even the most experienced and learned doctors have not always had the opportunity to have seen real-life cases of rare diseases in their career, but machine learning has seen millions of cases – from day one.
It can pinpoint the start of an epidemic, gauge the physiological reaction of a population listening to a political speech, or measure the spread of viruses in a population in real-time – and, if you want to go down an Orwellian path – happiness.
“Having access to software that analyses your data, which can then be processed by machine learning tools which can give you a recommended course of action to take – you’re going to be able to identify problems way before they become an issue. What if you could read your cholesterol levels or neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine? Previously people would go to the doctor only after symptoms start to show – often a culmination of years of unchecked damage.”
Alex also believes wearables can help make good health more accessible to people facing economic and social disadvantages.
“Imagine having it in countries that are poor, wearables don’t cost a lot of money and they will increasingly cost less and less – you will be able to see the wellbeing of the population in real-time. It’s a tech that should make health much more accessible.”
His passion for the subject is evident, shipping out over 100 Oura rings to partners and staff, primarily because he strongly believes that it’s an ‘incredible technology’. In fact, the well-being of staff is at the forefront of this conversation – in a commendable move, the company is taking proactive steps to ensure the health of their employees is in peak condition.
The company will not have access to personal data he reassures me, leaving staff to privately manage the results themselves. It’s a sensitive
point, because, as he says, it’s not just data, it’s biodata – which has a messy history with unethical mismanagement. However, they do have access to anonymous data, which helps them to measure the impact company initiatives are having on the wellbeing of employees.
They may enjoy doughnuts every day, he jokes, but ultimately the priority is to ‘make sure nothing you do at the office is going to harm them –
whether it’s physical or mental.’
Over a year and a half ago they bought a hyperbaric chamber – Oxyhelp. It can fit up to four people and delivers twice the atmospheric pressure with 100% oxygen. ‘It is an amazing technology that allows you to feel refreshed, but valuable also for its use in hospitals in the treatment of serious diseases such as diabetes.’
It’s currently being housed in the new office they’re building – which they hope to move into in a few short months. Employees will also be able to make use of a sauna, enjoy good food, and as stress-free a working environment as possible.
“We are in an iGaming business where you face a very competitive field, we need to be sure we manage stress in a good way – because ultimately – working in a company is stressful.”
In fact, there are wearables that exist specifically for stress management and that are specifically done on a B2B level. Oura, for example, has a health platform that looks at stress factors and is only accessible to companies – helping them to manage the wellbeing of employees.
The Oura ring can also go as far as alerting staff to possible Covid symptoms. The potential here for companies is huge – unfortunately, this is still a feature that is only available to companies enrolled in the health management platform and not to the general consumer.
“We are already digitally connected, but imagine what it will be like when we become biometrically unified. The level of knowledge we’ll have about the human race is going to be crazy.” This kind of B2B management of staff is one of many trends likely to emerge in the wearables market over the next few years. In terms of direct tech, we should see advances in glucose monitoring (using a PPG sensor) next year. Blood pressure, stress evaluation through different sensors, and at some point cholesterol, vitamin, and mineral profiles.
“To be honest though, we’re going slow”. Their measured approach will see testing start in Q2 of next year when they hope to test run a few wearables amongst close friends and colleagues.” I think we’ll have something to show mid to end next year,” he concludes.
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