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Brief Published: 14 Aug 2018

Google Goes Medical with Temperature-Tracking Earphones

Nick Fewings

Seventy-five per cent of Americans think that technology is important to health management (Accenture, 2018). Google thinks so too, as it patented a pair of "In-Ear Health Monitoring" earphones in July. By using a reward system to encourage daily readings, Google hopes to tackle global health concerns, one wearer at a time.

While wearers consume their usual audio content via smartphones, tablets and smartwatches, Google's new biometric earphones collect data such as their body temperature. To complete a reading, they simply need to listen for the duration of a temperature equalisation period – the time it takes for the device to take an accurate reading. Through frequent use, the information tracks the wearer's bodily norms.

The log of information has real potential for early detection of illnesses such as contagious diseases. For example, if the body were to show abnormal readings against the existing database, such as a higher body temperature, the wearer would be alerted to possible infection.

As 90% of current wearable health technology users are happy to share their device data with their doctor, this could enable swift diagnosis (Accenture, 2018). Early detection is key to survival rates during health epidemics such as the 2013-15 Ebola breakout, where diseases have protracted incubation periods (WHO, 2018).

The patent suggests that Google will include incentives such as access to media content, financial compensation and discounts to encourage users to record their body data regularly.

With consumers showing a growing interest in monitoring their health via wearable devices, brands should invest in innovative technologies and product interfaces to facilitate this demand. For more on health tech, see Wearable Technology Show.