Rings and Pacifiers: Health Gadgets Get Sophisticated

After the smartphone and fitness bracelet, here comes the smart ring. And the smart pacifier, and smart rollator. "Wellness" computers that monitor your pulse, temperature and other health indicators are becoming increasingly sophisticated and varied to cover every aspect -- and age -- of human life.

Some products, like the ŌURA ring [pictured above] by Finnish startup Ouraring, are specialized in optimizing physical training by tracking sleep patterns and physical activity. Others are looking to fit into health care services, such as in developed countries that are struggling to cope with aging populations.

Health gadgets took the limelight at this week's Slush fair, a gathering of technology startups that has drawn 800 investors and an estimated 15,000 participants worldwide.

Lasse Leppakorpi, the founder and CEO of Beddit, a startup specializing in sleep-monitoring equipment, says new gadgets will increasingly change the role of doctors to becoming "consultants and experts" for people concerned about their well-being.

"The focus of health care will shift from treating illnesses more toward responsibility of caring for one's health," he said at the Slush fair, featuring a record 1,700 startups.

Earlier this year, the Technical Research Center of Finland launched a digital maternity package complete with pacifiers that can monitor babies' sleep, well-being and physical development. It has now turned its sights to the other end of the life curve -- to smart rollators for the elderly, retrofitted with sensors and digital software to analyze users' physical condition and daily activities.

Jyrki Kasvi, a Green Party lawmaker, sees benefits to both governments and companies.

"This is an extremely important field, both for the technology side and for health services. In the future, there's no way we'll be able to afford having people running from lab to lab to be tested and measured if we can monitor them with gadgets."

The startup scene is particularly important...

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