The gap between the world as we know it and the world as it actually is—namely, the natural world and the industrial world—is forever growing, a chasm that some might argue is causing more harm than good. That would be a fair assessment, as rapid industrialization pushes us further and further away from the values of nature, all while seemingly connecting us more to each other. Still, that’s not to say that the two don’t meet, and often for the better. The values of one can inform the other, and in the context of innovative design, some of the best ideas have been around us and under our noses all along.
The world is entering a period of stratospheric change, brought forth by innovations in technology, changes in global culture, and a natural evolution of the human body. The increase in the human lifespan is providing a fertile field of innovative needs. Not to get too grim here, but longer life expectancy means that attention must be paid to the growing needs of an expanding and older population. In 2015, Chinese scientists developed a way to use 3D printers to print blood vessels out of living cells, heralding a breakthrough in cost-cutting methods, and a huge leap forward in the development of machines that could print entire body organs.
According to the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, China’s over-65 population is expected to grow from 138 million in 2014 to 370 million by 2050. That same year, the number of people expected to live up to 100 or older is expected to increase by as much as 1000%.
With life expectancy hitting these fever highs in a little over thirty years, now is the moment to engage more intently with the companies using big data and tech innovation to help shepherd us into the foreign terrain. With China’s age stats growing steadily, not to mention the country’s population in general (currently 1.38 billion people), it’s no wonder that they are currently leading the pack in healthcare innovation. Below are some of the ways that the country is preparing for a brighter and older tomorrow.
mHealth is the catch-all term for a new breed of tech that merges communication-based technology with medical expertise and usage. The m in mHealth stands for mobile, making China a particularly viable market considering that the country has 1.38 billion mobile phone subscriptions currently on record. Not only that, but China makes up 37% of the mHealth market in all of Asia.
mHealth is an incredibly valuable innovator in the medical world, but nowhere is it more vital than in countries with high numbers of elderly citizens, many of whom can’t endure the physically arduous process of visiting a doctor in person. As a result, diagnoses via video consultations and prescription delivery services create a new ecosystem of both health and convenience, and responds directly to the needs of a rapidly growing aging population.
Everyday objects are slowly advancing all around us. Our phones function as computers, our watches function as smartphones, cars are fitted out with technologically-aided intuition; why wouldn’t our homes be next? Clusters of smart homes are sure to begin popping up around the world, and their ability to cater to our health needs are sure to increase with each passing year.
In much the same way that mHealth and data are being used to synthesize the medical process, new technology installed into elderly communities could not only save lives, but improve them as well. Smart homes have often been tacked with simplifying the mundane, such as cleaning, controlling temperature, managing electricity, etc. But new kinds of technology could allow homes to monitor nutrition content, body warmth, and medication scheduling.
Apple’s iPhone integrated health software into its operating system a couple of models back, pushing for health and tech to meet on a bigger scale than ever before. The central tenant of its features relied heavily on user date, much of which is utilized in mHealth as well. With China’s billion-plus population, the country’s data pool is the perfect starting point for advancements in data. Companies like iCarbonx aim to “build an ecosystem of digital life based on a combination of an individual’s biological, behavioral, and psychological data, the internet, and artificial intelligence.”
According to Mashable, companies like iCarbonx “aim to provide individualized health analyses through data mining and machine learning, and promises to bring new labels of understanding to health, disease, and aging.” By giving patients agency in their own health, the data amassed could allow for a sizable change in the world of health by capturing the nuances of one’s own needs, as well as pushing the industry to better recognize and cater to those same demands.