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Bio-wearables are fast becoming one of the most popular medical accessories of the twenty-first century. This claim is no doubt drawn from the rapidly expanding market size of wearable medical devices globally. In a 2022 market analysis review, the Grand View Research team published market share trends valued the global wearable medical device market size at USD 21.3 billion in 2021. Judging from projected sales and revenue, this value is expected to expand at a compound annual rate (CAGR) of 28.1% by 2030.
Largely, the devices in this market are subdivided into two broad categories – those that show a limited range of health data and those with more intuitive designs for monitoring health data in patients with serious underlying medical conditions. Depending on the design and the medical indications for its use, some of these devices may require a medical prescription for their acquisition. With significant changes in the landscape of diagnostic services and patients, monitoring the technologies powering these innovative devices have been consistently improved over the years. Abbott’s Lingo line of bio-wearables is worthy of an honorable mention.
“Health tech is a big part of CES. It isn’t new to CES, but health innovation has certainly taken on a new urgency since we last gathered two years ago in Las Vegas.”
These were the word of Gary Shapiro, president, and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, as he introduced Ford, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Abbott, to the stage at the Consumer Electronics Show. Ford would go on to dazzle his audience, speaking for an extended period on different wonderful ideas and concepts about digital healthcare data monitoring.
Speaking at the event, Abbott Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert B. Ford remarked, “Technology gives us the power to digitize, decentralize and democratize healthcare, create a shared language between you and your doctor – and put more control of your health in your hands.”
In style paying tribute to the company’s many innovations over the years, Ford would go on and on introducing scientists, doctors, and other healthcare providers whose lives and jobs have been positively impacted by Abbott’s devices. To mention a few, the following professionals illustrated how Abbott had revamped the healthcare data monitoring landscape over the last couple of years;
Commenting on the different accounts of these professionals, Ford, a native of Brazil who has been with Abbott for 25 years, said;
“These are stories about the convergence of health and technology to empower human lives,”
However, Ford’s keynote address took an interesting turn when he unexpectedly introduced what would be a new product line in Abbott.
“Healthtech is at an inflection point. We’re creating a future that will bring you and your loved one’s care that is more personal and precise and will take human capabilities to entirely new levels. A future where people can practically manage their health—decentralize and democratize healthcare. With the right tools, we can give everyone the best chance to live their best lives.”
Abbott is developing a new line of bio-wearables similar in style to the current freestyle Libre Sensors in a plan to extend its bio-wearables market share globally. The new product line, dubbed “Lingo,” will be based on an existing diabetes monitoring technology with the added feature of the capability to track biological levels of glucose, ketones, alcohol, and lactate with a smartphone interface.
This preexisting monitoring technology, the FreeStyle Libre, was originally launched in 2014 and designed to provide a painless and safe option for diabetes monitoring their glucose level. This new line of bio-wearables would be designed to expand the operational capabilities of the FreeStyle Libre system.
Commenting on the newly improved health monitoring technology, Robert ford explained how Abbot had transitioned from just diabetes digital care to a comprehensive biomarker monitoring care with immense benefits for athletes, the aged, and the medically vulnerable. Ford admitted;
“Diabetes was our first priority, and we wanted to get it right. Now we have the evidence and the expertise that comes from three and a half million users [of the Freestyle Libre], and we’re going to take it to the next level.”
Abbot’s mission statement was simple – live your best life, now and in the future. Not only has Abbott taken this statement, but the company has also become a popular brand championing novel products in cardiovascular health, diabetes care, diagnostics medicine, neuromodulation nutrition, and pharmaceuticals. By its contribution to the global digital health monitoring devices, Abbott has also become a market leader in point-of-care testing, remote heart failure monitoring, glucose monitoring, blood and plasm screening, pediatric nutrition, and adult nutrition. Abbott pride itself in putting science and innovation to work – a claim that has led to a host of digital innovations in biomarker tracking aimed at health optimizations.
It all started with the FreeStyle Liber sensor technology for monitoring glucose levels in diabetics and athletes. With a digital interface connected to a smartphone, Abbott’s FreeStyle Liber sensor seamlessly replaced the use of a painful fingerstick with a painless scan for diabetics. Designed for ages 4 and above, this technology also offers real-time customizations about notifications on the level of glucose in the body. FreeStyle Liber practically help users understand the trend of glucose level fluctuations in their body. In people with significant diurnal fluctuations, this technology can help them make better decisions on glucose intake during the day.
With a strong market presence in 160 countries serving tens of millions of users, Abbott has grown to control a huge chunk of the global bio-wearable market. This perhaps is evidenced by the recent announcement of Lingo – a more comprehensive biomarker tracker. Based on existing Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre diabetes monitoring technology, Lingo is expected to expand the frontiers of digital health monitoring systems globally.
Abbott’s new product line is called ‘Lingo.’ It appears the naming was more than just a random afterthought. Abbott’s marketing pitch for this product since its first announcement has consistently emphasized how ‘Lingo understands and translates the body’s unique language.’
During the company’s keynote address at the CES, Abbott announced that Lingo’s fundamental design is aimed at understanding and translating the body’s unique language. By scientific extension, the body’s unique language, as monitored and explored over the years, is expressed as random fluctuations in the biological levels of hormones, enzymes, and metabolic biomarkers.
The idea of monitoring glucose, lactate, and alcohol levels as a vital aspect of diabetic and cardiovascular health management has been around for a while. Recently, there have been multiple scientific studies supporting Abbott’s new endeavor of expanding the range of biomarkers trackable digitally with a smartphone interface as a method of improving overall health.
In a recent publication of the Diabetes Metabolism Research and Reviews, a group of scientists observed the trends of glucose, lactate, and ketones during anaerobic and aerobic exercise in different human study populations with type 1 diabetes. Francesca De Rider and his colleagues draw multiple insights from this study. Perhaps, the most important one is about how the levels of these biomarkers fluctuate randomly based on the health conditions of humans.
Data from such measurements will ultimately help users, and healthcare providers optimize therapy regimens, nutrition plans, and exercise schedules. It is safe to imagine that Abbott’s Lingo would be one day pioneer a global push for personalized medical care.
Perhaps, Abbott’s and Chief Executive Officer, Robert B. Ford, was not exaggerating when he said:
“Diabetes was our [Abbott] first priority, and we wanted to get it right, so we focused intently on it. Now that we have the evidence and the expertise that comes from 3.5 million users, we’re going to take it to the next level. We’re going to translate a wide range of biometric signals: glucose, ketones, lactate, and alcohol.”
By offering a window into the body, Abbott’s new product line is sure to give consumers premium value for every cent spent. Although Lingo is still very much in development, preliminary tests to understand its effectiveness, safety, and measure of accuracy have been conducted. Eliud Kipchoge, a Pro long-distance runner, has since used the Lingo technology to plan his training and nutrition schedules in the lead-up to running the world’s first sub-two-hour marathon. For a runner like Eluid, and by extension, all athletes, Lingo is designed to provide a real-time update of glucose, lactate, alcohol, and important metabolic biomarkers.
These measurements help team doctors and personal trainers make informed decisions on weight management, nutrition type, energy optimization, and sleep habit. Although it appears futuristic, Abbott’s claims on the technical capabilities of Lingo make this seems available in a couple of months.
In addition to glucose level measurements, Lingo’s Sensor Technology will also be able to detect a user’s ketone levels in real time. The health benefits of ketone updates are simple without bounds. This will help athletes and other routine Lingo users detect when their bodies enter a state of ketosis. For athletes, lactate sensors can also help understand how rapidly the muscles build up lactic acid during exercises. In other people, the Lingo ketone monitor will help detect and understand the pattern of ketosis. At ketosis, the body replaces the default energy store for the body by burning fat instead of glucose.
This metabolic state happens when the body’s glucose stores drain down as a result of low-carb intake. As the body breaks down ketones instead of carbs, it produces a large number of byproducts called ketones. In diabetics, Lingo will expand on the capabilities of FreeStyle Liber by going one step further from just measuring fluctuations in glucose levels. In this population, Lingo could function as a continuous ketone monitoring device warning users when they are fast approaching diabetic ketoacidosis – a serious, life-threatening complication of diabetes.
Speaking on the technical accuracy of Lingo to also perfectly detect, monitor, and record the body levels of alcohol, Ford said;
“It [Lingo] could one day connect to users’ vehicles to help prevent drunk driving and monitor alcohol intake, potentially helping you decide how much of Abbott’s Pedialyte they need after whatever you did last night.”
Considering the huge economic cost of drunk driving and the consequences involved, stakeholders hope someday; Lingo might provide an accurate option for monitoring blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Theoretically, Ford’s bold statement about the possibilities of measuring BAC with Lingo sometime in the future is based on how the body metabolizes alcohol by default. To do this, Lingo’s sensor technology will be equipped to detect the levels of alcohol biomarkers present in the skin and, perhaps, the blood. Considering the huge milestones Abbott has achieved in the field of biomarker sensing; an alcohol-sensing device is perhaps not a big challenge.
Although based on the FreeStyle Liber technology, Lingo is not solely intended for diabetics nor designed to be used in influencing medical decisions. This helps make sure that the Lingo is not considered an alternative to proven medical methods or used as a cure for life-threatening metabolic conditions. Lingo will follow the easy-to-use designs as other Abbott bio-wearables. Ford’s speech also hints at possible compatibility with an accompanying smartphone interface and popular patch designs.
As with FreeStyle Liber, Lingo will be perfectly compatible with a quality hypoallergenic adhesive patch like the ones designed by notjustapatch. These patch designs feature a wave pattern form for adhesions and respiration with a combination of spandex and cotton in percentages that allow for easy use on the skin and muscles.
It appears Lingo will not be the only product Abbot is planning to roll out soon. In his keynote speech, Ford also revealed the company’s proposed plans to develop a new line of diagnostic tests to be circulated widely across the globe. These new additions, he remarked, will be designed on the same platform as the i-STAT blood test for traumatic brain injury and the BinaxNOW rapid antigen test for COVID-19. In his words,
“These simple tests will become more widely available for people to do at home. They’re going to talk to our phones, and they’re going to communicate with our doctors. The future of decentralized and democratized testing will enable us to have the right test at the right place at the right time and will give everyone actionable next steps.”
In addition to the Lingo portfolio, Abbott’s press releases have mentioned a few other life-changing technologies not intended for medical use. Although these devices will no doubt help improve personal health data tracking, Abbott’s disclaimers consistently explained that they are not intended for use in screening, diagnosis, treatment, cure, mitigation, prevention, and monitoring of diseases. The HeartMate 3 Left Ventricular Assists System is another of Abbott’s revolutionary projects.
Heartmate 3 is designed to provide both short and long ten mechanical circulatory support in adults and pediatric patients with advanced refractory ventricular heart failure. Recommended based on a patient’s body surface area, this innovation has removed the usual medical bottlenecks in monitoring and ensuring proper circulation in patients with left ventricular heart failure.
The CardioMEMS™ HF System definitely deserves mention in any review of Abbott’s amazing product portfolio. CardioMEMS™ deploys a novel wireless technology for monitoring and measuring pulmonary artery pressure based on the New York Heart Association (NYHA) Class III heart failure patients who have been hospitalized on account of heart failure in the previous year. Although not also indicated for diagnosis or cure, this system improves on any existing technology deployed for this same purpose.
Today, physicians and primary healthcare providers consider CardioMEMS™ data in the management of heart failure and other complicated cardiovascular disorders. As published in a press release, Abbott’s research team explained how the CardioMEMS™ hemodynamic data can help achieve the goal of reducing the rate of hospitalizations secondary to heart failure globally.
In its commitment to adapt seamlessly and respond innovatively to medical emergencies, Abbott recently developed the BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test. This has since received the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization. Currently, Abbott’s BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test is indicated only for the detection of proteins produced by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
With the recent announcement, it is evident that Abbott’s planned to take control of the global bio-wearables market with many different innovations. For an average user, these innovations come across as a smart, viable replacement for conventional monitoring methods that are invasive and, most times, painful. With the addition of Lingo, Abbott is expanding the reach of Medtech and creating smart monitoring devices that help clinicians better understand and translate the body’s unique language.
This article was medically reviewed by Rachael Baker (BNg; CDE; MNgPrac)