CEOs attend UTM wearable tech symposium

Tuesday’s Wireless Wearable Health Tech Symposium, held in the Innovation Complex, featured visits by several important businesspeople who made presentations on wearable technology in health and medical contexts.

Organized by Jayson Parker, a UTM lecturer in medical biotechnology, the conference featured keynote speaker Ann Cavoukian, the executive director of Ryerson’s Privacy and Big Data Institute.

Cavoukian spoke about the issue of privacy in wireless and wearable devices and promoted the concept of “privacy by design”, which encourages tech designers to set privacy-friendly features in devices as the default settings. Cavoukian said that this practice would provide financial benefits for companies as well, such as fewer lawsuits and more customer satisfaction.

Parker spoke about the regulations on the wearable technologies used in medical contexts and possible investment strategies. He encouraged investment in low-risk medical devices, such as insulin pump software, as opposed to high-risk medical devices, such as pacemaker software. The higher-risk devices are those that have higher requirements for validation and greater costs, and hence may not bring an investment to fruition.

“The risk of the product is impacted by claims and the target user group,” Parker explained, adding that ideal targets for investment are outpatient products and products whose purchase cost can be covered by insurance.

The symposium also featured two panel discussions, each moderated by Parker. The first panel included representation from Siemens Hearing Instruments, GE Healthcare, Medtronic, Ernst & Young LLP, and TELUS Health, among others. The VPs and CEOs of these companies answered questions concerning the future of wearable technology and possible obstacles.

The second panel, consisting of representation from Celestica, Ryerson, Cortex Design Inc., the Ontario Brain Institute, and VMware Canada, among others, discussed the challenges of making big data a relevant opportunity for both the public and private health sectors.

Colin Foster, a senior Health Canada officer, also gave a presentation on the classifications of medical devices as set out in Health Canada’s Medical Device Regulatory Framework.

With this symposium, Parker hopes to make understanding of the regulations on wearable technologies more accessible.

“Right now it is only really accessible by looking at very specific documents at the FDA, so we’re looking to provide a roadmap for designers and what the implications are,” he said. “You can negotiate with [the resolutions]—you don’t go and check off boxes and say A, B, and C. So we’re aiming to clear up some confusion.”

“We hope people walk out here saying this is doable and we should start thinking about our business development strategy and creating low-risk products,” Parker added.

Though Parker said that currently there is no wearable device he wants to own, he is working on his own wearable that tracks food consumption. “That’s a wearable I would buy and use,” he said.

The conference also included talks by Joseph Cafazzo, senior director and centre lead at the University Health Network, and Tom Barker, chair of Digital Futures Initiative at OCAD University.

The event was held in partnership with Life Sciences Ontario and the Research Innovation and Commercialization Centre.

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