THE BLOG
02/25/2015 05:28 pm ET Updated Apr 27, 2015

The Keys to Heart Health: Diet, Exercise and Technology

The consumer electronics industry has made it easier for you to watch your favorite movies, drive your car and communicate with friends across the world. But our innovation is also leading the way in preventing and treating heart disease, the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States.
 
Each year, the cumulative effects of cardiovascular disease and stroke cost Americans $315 billion -- more than the annual GDP of Malaysia. February is Heart Month -- an opportunity to reflect on how we can take ownership of our own heart health through diet, exercise and better health monitoring made possible by technology.
 
The Internet of Things -- the growing web of connected devices redefining how we watch TV, cook dinner, travel, manage our homes and more -- is opening up exciting new possibilities in the medical field as well. Welcome to the future of telemedicine. Using wireless technology, doctors can remotely examine patients from dedicated kiosks at your local drugstore, or at home via your smartphone. For us as patients, this means monitoring to prevent possible problems without the long waits in the doctor's office, or eliminating trips to the doctor all together if our symptoms can be diagnosed electronically.
 
Venture capital firms are starting to take notice of this nascent sector. They see a growing market and a broad demographic of users -- digital natives as well as older generations who find it safer and more convenient to have a digital house call from a doctor. The market for wireless portable medical devices is expected to grow from $1.5 billion in 2013 to $2.83 billion in 2020. 
 
The prospects for telemedicine extend far beyond heart health. Personal Sound Amplification Products (PSAPs), for example, offer consumers affordable hearing-assistance options at a fraction of the price of traditional hearing aids. And at the 2015 International CES last month in Las Vegas, some of the most exciting and promising innovations on the show floor focused on health and wellness. We saw attachable patches that monitor a baby's breathing, laptop tests that can diagnose Alzheimer's and an ear probe that pairs with an iPhone to send images to a doctor who can diagnose problems in less than two hours.
 
Technology also has the power to help people dealing with heart-related lifestyle diseases, such as and high blood pressure, track and monitor their health status in order to mitigate more serious medical complications. iHealth's smart blood pressure monitor wirelessly measures your systolic, diastolic and pulse rate and shares that data with your smartphone, where it can be collected, tracked and analyzed anywhere, anytime. Other apps like Fooducate help you manage your diet, identifying foods that are high in sugar and fat by scanning the barcode.
 
The key to harnessing the potential of telehealth technology is to guarantee that health-related apps and devices have enough wireless broadband spectrum to work smoothly. Unlicensed spectrum -- the radio frequencies that power millions of health and fitness devices -- generates more than $62 billion annually in incremental retail sales value. Freeing up unused or underused spectrum will allow this field to continue growing, which means more innovation, more jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity.
 
Research from the Consumer Electronics Association shows that one in 10 online U.S. adults already owns a fitness tracker, and of those who do, nine in 10 say they're likely to recommend fitness tracking devices to friends and family -- a sign of future market growth. Users say they appreciate how easy wearable fitness tech is to use and they like having the ability to sync their wearables with their mobile devices and computers. As more of us adopt wireless technology to take control of our own health and wellness, we'll see a growing need for spectrum to support our devices.
 
Our smartphones and tablets are workhorses -- facilitating new forms of communication and entertainment in ways unconceivable just two decades ago. And now these devices, through apps and related hardware, have the power to help us lead healthier, longer lives. It is truly a great time to be alive!
 
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books, Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World's Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American DreamHis views are his own. Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro.