A long, hot summer: How medtech is battling the heat | Innovation

Editor for Med-Tech Innovation News, Dave Gray, talks about the medical technologies that could help us Brits better cope with the heat.

Let’s face it, we’re not geared up for this weather here in Britain. At the time of writing, it’s the day after the hottest day of the year. Knowing my luck, when this hits your desk things will have turned decidedly arctic and this whole comment piece will be irrelevant.

We’re not alone though, much of Europe has been sweltering too. Pundits are now edging closer to declaring this hotter than the famous heatwave of 1976. It was before my time, but I’m reliably informed by my elders and betters that the last six weeks don’t hold a candle to the summer of ’76. Just as everyone had a story for me last winter about a time when the snow was ‘so much worse’, there are always those with a good tale to tell.

In ’76 for instance, I’ve heard it said that the advice of one British doctor was to consume plenty of beer and crisps, to replenish the fluids and salt lost through sweating. Well, it’s one theory.

It got me thinking about what the advice will be in a few years time, when today’s disruptive technology has become the norm.

At CES this year, beauty brand L’Oreal launched a wearable UV sensor – something that the firm has been developing for a few years now. It may seem a little gimmicky, but L’Oreal’s Guive Balooch, global vice president of research and technology department says that human-centred design – a key tenet of the medtech world – was put into practise during the development of the product.

It sits on the thumbnail and the sensors communicate via NFC with a smartphone app to inform the user about their sun exposure, and issue guidance on any necessary precautions.

Apps, too, will likely play a greater role in the next heatwave. I’m not just talking about things that remind you to drink enough water, or point you in the direction of the nearest beach. As we learn how to properly exploit the proliferation of technology available to us via our smartphones, we will soon be monitoring vital signs in vulnerable populations – particularly infants and the elderly – and will perhaps be able to reduce the strain on A&E when a heatwave strikes.

Already some Trusts are reporting record numbers of admissions, with respiratory problems and dehydration among the top causes. Smart buildings and smart clothing have been touted as potential solutions for unpredictable weather. Perhaps this intersection will soon link into digital health, too. It doesn’t seem so futuristic to imagine a world where our very surroundings become the early warning signal that also responds according to our needs.

But there again, we still have a little way to go. Crisps anyone?

Dave Gray, editor

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