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  • By Joy Santamarina

Smart New World: How well can you tech it?

Much has been said about technological advances in various industries. Some have been touted to bring great benefits to the majority and serve as great equalizers to an otherwise unequitable world. Think about internet and how it has brought people together. Innovations in edutech is making education reach far and wide which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. There’s also fintech which aims to bank the unbankables through mobile banking among other things.

While there are many more examples of what technology has brought to many industries, one industry has seen a resurge in recent years. Thanks in part to the added self-awareness (aka vanity) that social media brings, but also for the most part to the many innovations that has since been made available. I’m talking about the health and wellness industry that seems to have taken almost everyone by storm.

The total wellness industry is now a whopping $4.2-trillion global industry. It is no surprise then that tech firms are racing their innovations for a slice in this market that is not only huge, but has been growing 13 percent annually in the last few years. From activity trackers to calorie counters, from fitness programs to online coaches, the wellness tech industry has never been as vibrant and exciting.

If you’re still using a bathroom scale that only tells you your weight, it’s time to upgrade! There are now a wide range of smart bathroom scales that tell not only your weight, but other wellness metrics such as BMI, heart rate, water percentage, muscle mass, body fat, metabolic age and the like. Some fancier models even have a pregnancy mode. The best models sync (through Bluetooth or WiFi) with your phone apps to track your wellness trend over time. It’s not that pricey either since lower end models cost $50. Higher end models though can be at the vicinity of $200. However, that’s just a few co-pays away if you don’t take your wellness seriously. Prevention is always better than cure.

Your smart phone can also be your wellness partner. The basic Samsung and Apple health apps built-in your phones can already do the trick with some health and activity trackers such as steps, sleep, active time, floors climbed, and heart rate. You can likewise use it to track your exercises manually by choosing the exercise and turning it on before you start a workout. Samsung even has a symptom checker and online doctor options; while on Apple, you can add a medical ID for the most pertinent information you may want to share in cases of emergency. Of course, you can always add your favorite apps on your phones.

It used to be that there was just My Fitness Pal and a few other apps available. Nowadays, the range of apps available are mindboggling – from 5 or 7-minute exercise regimens to full coaching apps, from big sports brands like Nike, Adidas and Under Armour to celebrity apps, from calorie counters to recipes to healthy food delivered right at your door steps, you name it – there’s likely a wellness app for it. Some of these apps even have some social network components such as my current favorite app, Strava, which is like FB for sports enthusiasts (mainly running, biking, and swimming).

The technique though is to choose the right one for you and stick with a few versus loading your phone with dozens of apps that you won’t use regularly. And if you have Echo smart speaker — otherwise known as Alexa — you can also program it for your fitness and wellness goals.

Feeling stressed and can’t sleep? Try out some meditation and mindfulness apps. I personally like Insight Timer and used it quite frequently when I was based in Malaysia a few years back. I lived in KL Sentral, which has a train station hub, so I needed some soothing sounds to drown out the trains’ noise. These types of apps have guided or unguided mediations, have ambient music best suited for relaxation and sleep, or even have online courses on mindfulness.

Wearables are not just your fitness trackers. For women, the wearables industry has entered the beauty and wellness market. Cosmetics giant L’Oreal, together with wearables pioneer John Rogers, has produced a wearable skin patch (smaller than a band aid) which can track your skin’s hydration and/or UV exposure levels. This has an accompanying app which then recommends, of course, L’Oreal products to buy that’s perfect for your skin.

There is also a wide range of smart garments in early developments and launches (read as: very expensive for general use) for fitness, posture correction, even breast-pumping wearables and the like.

But the thing that may be a bit too much for me are the up-and-coming smart mirrors, which not only adjusts lighting but also talks while it analyzes your skin and whether your beauty regimen is working or not. There are also hairbrushes and styling products with tiny sensors being developed that can detect hair damage, link to an app which then prescribes tips and treatments for your hair.

In essence, technology can be the ultimate truth teller of how well and how far we are from our wellness goals. You can try some of it now or in the future, but like it or not, these developments will continue. It’s only a matter of time before, well… you need to tech it.

Joy Santamarina is a consulting principal in the APAC region specializing in the telecommunications, media, and technology industry. Send feedback to

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