The development of wearable technology to advance healthcare is a major healthtech trend as predicted by Gartner and the IDC. By 2018, 130 million wearables will be acquired by consumers, and Gartner states that by 2018, two million employees will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment. Devices can now track everything from heart rate and blood pressure to a patient’s oxygen saturation, and the global mobile health market is expected to reach $26 billion by 2017.

South Africa has a mobile penetration of 146%, and the developing world has more mobile phones than access to clean drinking water, and fortunately healthtech start-ups are flourishing in the Cape Town city region. The development of the Internet of Things, as highlighted at our recent Digital Cape Town Thought Leaders Breakfast, will also lead to advancements in healthcare and data analytics, whilst predictive technologies will enable more personalised medicine. Even Barclays Africa are investing in healthtech with the launch of Rise Africa at the Bandwidth Barn.

One company that is building great products is Stellenbosch based company HealthQ and LifeQ. HealthQ partners with global companies to test and industrialise new technologies and constructed the world’s first open-source metabolic chamber. LifeQ is the consumer facing solution, partnering with consumer electronics and wearable device companies globally. It empowers device companies such as FitBit and Jawbone with more functionality to inform consumers with greater medical explanation about what’s happening during sleep, stress, etc. According to Riaan Conradie, founder of HealthQ and LifeQ, the technology with be in 10 to 15 large device companies by Q3 2016. In addition, LifeQ is partnering with hospital groups in the USA and SA, as well as insurance and medical services companies. No wonder LifeQ has had three acquisition offers, but Riaan sees even more potential, so is not currently selling. Riaan says: ‘Fortunately we have a lot of very good skills in the Cape. This is not only in software development, but we also have great scientists and biologists who are highly motivated. We are also benefiting from a weak rand making the exchange rate favourable for global companies’.

Another project specifically supporting healthcare in South Africa and developing countries is The Open Medicine Project located at the Bandwidth Barn.  Founded by two qualified doctors from Stellenbosch, Dr Yaseen Khan and Dr Mohammed Dalwai, the team develop mobile apps to support specific healthcare problems such as the Mobile Triage Solution which is designed for busy and under resourced hospitals, allowing even junior nurses to quickly and accurately triage patients. The Emergency Medicine Guidance App provides comprehensive and important information for emergency workers in South Africa. By partnering with the Universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch, and a number of other institutions, the app ensures freely available and critical information to support local health workers.