Illustration of wearable healthtech
Finnish innovators are generating new solutions to meet the needs of the booming wearable healthtech market. Image: Julia Bushueva
Five from Finland

FIVE FROM FINLAND: Wearable healthtech

Designed to improve the quality of patient care, prevent diseases, maintain health and facilitate diagnosis, wearable devices are gaining more and more popularity among both health-conscious consumers and healthcare professionals.

Zhanna Koiviola

11.10.2021

Home to Oura, Polar and Suunto, Finland has long been at the heart of global wearable technology development. Today, one of the most promising markets for the industry is in the healthcare sector which is becoming increasingly data-driven. In fact, the global wearable healthcare devices market is projected to reach 46.6 billion US dollars by 2025 from 18.4 billion US dollars in 2020.

The ease of use and flexibility offered by wearables are also welcomed by consumers. A recent international study commissioned by Sitra shows that Finns are particularly enthusiastic about the use of smart devices for measuring their health and wellbeing data, compared to other Europeans.

Here are five Finnish wearable healthtech solutions going far beyond conventional activity trackers.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

A smart patch with electrodes on a patient's arm

Developed by VTT and its partners, the smart patch measures patients’ vital functions, transfers the data to a monitoring system for analysis and alerts hospital staff about any warning signs. Image: VTT

Early reaction to changes in patients’ vital functions is all-important. However, the problem of how to best enable hospital staff to monitor the status of patients remotely and continuously for any warning signs is still puzzling healthcare and technology professionals worldwide.

To tackle the issue, VTT has joined forces with fellow Finnish organisations to develop a smart patch that could revolutionise patient monitoring. Virtually unnoticeable to the user, the patch is equipped with lightweight wireless sensors capable of measuring heart rate, body temperature, oxygen saturation and respiration rate, as well as taking an electrocardiogram.

“For example, a patient recovering from surgery could move about freely while measurements are taken, instead of lying in bed surrounded by wires,” research team leader Teemu Alajoki illustrated the solution’s advantages. Among them is also affordability, with a unit price of only a few euros.

According to VTT, the patches could be introduced to market in two or three years.

GlucoModicum

A wearable needle-free glucose monitor on a human hand

GlucoModicum’s first wearable solution has been created for needle-free glucose monitoring, but its non-invasive approach is finding wider use in health and biomarker monitoring. Image: GlucoModicum

Painful needle pricks, well known to over 400 million people affected by diabetes worldwide, could soon become a thing of the past thanks to GlucoModicum’s innovation. Spun off from the University of Helsinki in 2018, the startup has developed a novel magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) technology for needle-free glucose monitoring.

“The accuracy and safety of the technology has been validated in clinical pilots,” stated CEO Jokke Mäki. “We offer a solution that is gentle on the skin while enabling continuous glucose monitoring and delivering rapid, accurate results.”

For the past few years, GlucoModicum has been working hard on turning its groundbreaking technology into a compelling consumer product. The result is an industrial-grade prototype of the glucose monitoring wearable device, similar in looks to a smartwatch.

Taking on diabetes is only the first step for the ambitious startup as its proprietary technology can be used to monitor not only glucose, but also many other analytes in interstitial fluid in a convenient, non-invasive manner.

Heart2Save

A necklace

Heart2Save has come up with an idea of a necklace that, when paired with the user’s smartphone, enables the measurement of a hospital-level electrocardiogram at home, at work or on holiday. Image: Awario

Founded in 2015, the Kuopio-based specialist in cardiac arrhythmia knows first-hand about the importance of regular heart rhythm monitoring, but medical devices are often not aesthetically pleasing and difficult to carry around. That is how the idea for Awario Gem, the world’s first necklace that enables anyone to monitor their heart rate no matter where they are, was born.

Embedded with a single-lead electrocardiogram, the necklace sends the user’s heart rhythm data to the cloud for AI-powered analysis and displays the results on their smartphone in a matter of seconds.

The product’s beautiful and functional design, created in collaboration with reputed Finnish jewellery brand Lumoava, has a distinctive Nordic touch with a special focus on usability and sustainable materials, such as Finnish natural fibre composite and recycled platinum-plated silver.

“Heart2Save has strong roots in science, and our products are medical devices,” said CEO Helena Jäntti. “They have thus gone through the same demanding process as devices used in hospitals, so the information they provide can be trusted.”

Veri

A man using mobile phone to scan a sensor patch on his arm

By providing instant feedback on meals based on the body’s glucose response, Veri helps people to better understand their metabolic health. Image: Veri

Metabolic health plays a significant role in warding off chronic diseases, with experts considering it one of the strongest predictors of lifespan. Helsinki-based Veri is on a mission to help people to discover their optimal diet with its wearable blood glucose tracker and the accompanying app.

Tapping into the need for preventative health approaches, Veri’s solution provides real-time feedback on users’ food choices, as well as personalised insights gleaned from analyses of blood sugar levels during exercise and sleep.

“It is like having the best nutritionist in the world standing by your side 24-7, helping you understand how your food and lifestyle choices are affecting your personal metabolism in real time,” described Vimal Ramjee, cardiologist, culinary medicine specialist and director of health at Veri.

With over 50,000 people on the wait list, Veri recently closed a combined pre-seed and seed funding round worth roughly four million US dollars.

Nukute

An elderly person sleeping on the sofa

Designed to facilitate the diagnosis of sleep apnoea, Nukute’s solution is easy to use and doesn’t impact the patient’s quality of sleep. Image: Nukute

Sleep apnoea is one of the most common sleep disorders, estimated to affect nearly one billion people worldwide. Yet, most of the cases remain undiagnosed. Oulu-based Nukute aims to make sleep apnoea diagnosis as smooth and reliable as possible for both patients and healthcare providers.

The company’s flagship solution, known as Nukute Collare, includes a tablet application and two wearable sensors that record essential biosignals during sleep, including breathing, blood oxygen saturation and heart rate. The data, analysed by cloud-based AI algorithms, is then reviewed by a physician for the final diagnosis.

In early 2021, Nukute raised nearly five million euros to facilitate its product development and European market expansion.

“Nukute Collare is our first product,” commented founder Tuukka Visuri. “The gained product development experience allows us to further continue our work in the field of tech products that help people with sleep apnoea and other respiratory disorders.”

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