Dr. Lo, SWIT-Health 2015: 'Smart watches could transform our lives'

Apart from being a Hamlyn Fellow, and a Non-Clinical Lecturer in Medical Robotics at the Department of Surgery and Cancer in the Hamlyn Centre, Imperial College London, Dr. Benny Lo also acts as the Programmer Manager of the EPSRC Programme grant, ESPRIT, and is a member of the management committee of the Centre for Pervasive Sensing. He is one of the pioneers in Body Sensor Networks (BSN) research, the foundation of which he helped build through the development of the platform technologies, such as the BSN development kit, introduction of novel sensors, approaches and theories for different pervasive applications. His  current research focuses on pervasive sensing and Body Sensor Networks (BSN) and their applications in healthcare, sports and wellbeing. He also organizes conferences and tutorials, and is the General Chair of SWIT-Health 2015, the first edition of the International Conference on Smart Wearable Devices and IoT for Health and Wellbeing Applications, co-located with the SmartCity360 summit that will be held in Toronto. We talked to him about the conference and the future of the field.

What will the main focus of the first edition of SWIT-Health be?

The first SWIT-Health will mainly focus on some of the key topics related to smart wearable sensing and IoT for health and wellbeing applications, such as behavioural profiling, and wireless communication and networking. Although recent research has demonstrated how wearable and IoT technologies can potentially reshape the future of healthcare, there are still many challenges yet to be addressed before the technologies can be translated into clinical practice and generate the anticipated impacts in healthcare. The first SWIT-Health conference will provide a unique opportunity for researchers and healthcare practitioners to showcase their latest research and development, and share their ideas in these fast-growing areas.

Dr. Benny Lo, General Chair of SWIT-Health 2015
Dr. Benny Lo, General Chair of SWIT-Health 2015

EAI conferences strive to help researchers and practitioners collaborate. From your experience, what is the relationship between academia and industry like within the field of smart wearables and IOT?

Both academia and industry have been working on smart wearables and IoT related technologies for many years. Given the potential of these technologies in transforming the overstretched healthcare services, EC has funded numerous industrial and academia collaborative projects, some of which have spun-off into very successful companies. With the recent growing interests from the industry in smart wearable and IoT, there will be increasing industry-initiated collaboration with the academia.

What do you see as the most prominent trends within this field for the near future?

Following the Moore’s Law, smart wearables and IoT devices will become smaller and more intelligent. At the same time, the cost of the devices will continue to drop, which will make the devices more accessible. With the growing number of devices and users, enormous volume of health and wellbeing related information could be generated, which could potentially lead to a better understanding of human physiology, disease progress, drugs responses, and so on. This vast amount of continuous health information could enable the transformation of current reactive patient care to preventative care. On the other hand, the miniaturised devices could also enable the realisation of personalised care and facilitate more effective treatments.

What is your opinion on smart watches and where they will fit in our lives? Is it just temporary hype or will they become a popular and important tool, for our health, well-being, and more?

Over the years, many companies have attempted to introduce intelligent watches into the consumer market, but the results often fall behind expectation. Given the recent advances in low-power wireless network and pervasive sensing technologies, the recent smart watches have much more functions than just telling time, and their abilities to monitor one’s health and wellbeing have made the devices very attractive. With an intuitive user interface and some unique functions, smart watches could potentially become a popular and important tool not just for our health and wellbeing, but they could potentially transform our daily lives, similar to the how smartphones did.