Wearable devices are rapidly expanding for health and medical uses, and are expected to reach a market value of $32B by 2024; Smartphone ubiquity, sensor miniaturization, and ease of integration have increased the number of wearable products on the market, to the point where such products are now achieving performance levels suitable for medical use-cases.
An increasing number of wearable devices are approaching medical-grade level: for instance, the Ava wristband, Apple watch, Cefaly patch, and Ectosens patch, along with smartwatches from Omron and Verily. But even though these products hold considerable promise as consumer medical wearables, they still must be comfortable and easy to use, with functions serving very different purposes from activity tracking to glucose monitoring, through atrial fibrillation detection.
In the report “Medical Wearables: Market and Technology Trends 2019”, Yole Développement (Yole)’s analysts explain how the medical wearable market is evolving and identify the potential market leaders of tomorrow along with technology requirements and roadmaps. As an illustration this trend, we had the opportunity to interview Pascal Koenig, CEO of Ava, one of the leading medical wearable company for fertility. Koenig explains a bit more about Ava’s product, vision of medical wearables and its future perspectives to Asma Siari, Technology & Market Analyst and Jerome Mouly, Technology & Market Senior Analyst at Yole.
Asma Siari (AS): Could you briefly introduce Ava, its history, activities, and healthcare products?
Pascal Koenig (PK): Ava was founded in 2014 to tackle fertility issues, pregnancy complications, and side effects of contraception. The Ava bracelet is our first product. It uses state-of-the-art sensor technology together with clinically proven methods to pinpoint a woman’s fertile days in real time. Since our launch in 2016 we have grown very quickly, and supported more than 20,000 couples to get pregnant. Ava currently has a team of around 120 people working in Zurich, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Belgrade and Manila.
Jérôme Mouly (JM): What motivated the organization to get into the fertility monitoring application?
PK: Technological innovation has transformed our daily lives: all it takes is one tap to order a ride, share a photo, or book a room. But when it comes to new products and services supporting women’s reproductive health, we haven’t seen more than one or two major innovations since the birth control pill. And that was 60 years ago. Ava strives to change that. We created the Ava bracelet to offer women a modern way to track their cycles and learn more about their bodies.
AS: Ava wearable is gaining traction of several users since its launch last year, can you explain what technology (hardware & software) is behind and how does Ava incorporate important fertility indicators?
PK: Traditional products used to monitor the fertile window have been based on a single parameter—usually basal body temperature or LH levels in urine. In contrast, we use state-of-the-art sensor technology to measure seven physiological parameters while a woman is sleeping. This approach enables us to precisely and conveniently pinpoint both the start and the end of the fertile window.
Latest clinical results have just been published in a peer-reviewed journal. The fact that we invest heavily into clinical research and transparent publication of study results has completely changed our discussions with gynecologists over the last few years.
JM: How has this discussion changed?
PK: Doctors are a very critical audience. They have seen many companies make bold claim, and a lot of innovation labelled «revolutionary» disappear. They want to see strong clinical evidence before making any endorsement. After five years of hard work, we are starting to get there.
AS: Medical wearables are one of the hot topics this year. Are they overhyped or are they really going to be the next big thing?
PK: I am convinced that medical wearables are more than a hype. However, having been in this space for more than 15 years I am deeply aware that building successful medical wearables takes time and is complex. Having said this, I am convinced that a number of highly successful companies will emerge in this space over the coming years – companies that are based on strong use case, resolving a real patient issue. They will be significantly more sustainable than many seen in the consumer wearable space, even if growth rates are not as steep in the early years.
JM: What are the hurdles that still face Ava today?
PK: We are confronted with challenges every day. On the market side it is complex to steer intelligently through the regulatory landscape, where there is a lot of greyscale and a trend towards nationalization. On the company side we try to constantly optimize the organizational setup to cope with the fast growth.
AS: Can you describe the total fundraisings and partnership that you already have in place?
PK: So far we have raised USD 40 million. We have built many fruitful partnerships – with key opinion leaders, pharma companies, distributors, VCs, etc. One partnership that I would like to point out is the one with CSEM, a Swiss research organization which belongs to the global technology leaders in the medical wearable space.
JM: What is the business model adopted by Ava to generate revenues today?
PK: The majority of our revenue is currently coming from direct sales via our website www.avawomen.com, where the bracelet is sold for around USD 300.
AS: What are your expectations in terms of market penetration for Ava fertility? Do you have any numbers to share?
PK: Every third couple has issues to conceive, and 10-20% of couples in developed countries eventually go to a reproduction clinic. Considering that we have an attractive and continuously improving product in this space you can imagine that we still have a huge growth potential in our core market.
JM: Can we expect any additional products from Ava in the coming few years?
PK: Supporting couples to conceive is just the start of many exciting possibilities. Our vision is to be the trusted, research-backed companion for women, building products that support their reproductive health from puberty to menopause. We are in the final development of a digital contraceptive, and work on other products that will have a profound impact on women’s health over the coming years.
After studies at the University of St. Gallen and Columbia Business School, Pascal Koenig, Co-Founder and CEO of Ava, started his career at McKinsey. In the last 15 years he has worked at the interface of wearable technologies and healthcare: Before co-founding Ava he built up Limmex (a watch-based emergency system for seniors) and Cardiosafe (a real-time alarming system for cardiac patients). Pascal has won various international prizes, and Ava was named “Best Swiss Startup” in 2017 and 2018.
As a Technology & Market Analyst, Biotechnologies & Molecular Innovations, Medical Technologies in the Life Sciences & Healthcare division at Yole Développement (Yole), Asma Siari is involved in the development of technology & market reports as well as the production of custom consulting projects.
After a Master’s degree in Biotechnologies, Diagnostic Therapeutics & Management, Asma served as Research Assistant at the Moores Cancer Center (San Diego, CA).
She is a coauthor in three scientific publications published in the Molecular Cancer Research Journal.
Asma Siari graduated with an Advanced Master’s degree in International Strategy & Marketing BtoB from EM Lyon Business School (France).
Jérôme Mouly serves as a Senior Technology & Market Analyst & Business Developer specialized in microtechnologies for inkjet & bioMEMS sensors at Yole Développement (Yole).
Jérôme is supporting the development of strategic projects, following leading customers of the company, within the Life Sciences & Healthcare division.
Since 2000, he is also engaged in more than 100 marketing and technological analyses for industrial groups, start-ups and institutes related to semiconductor & medical technologies industry, in the field of inkjet functional printing, wearable sensors and connected medical devices.
Jérôme is also regularly involved in international conferences, giving presentations and delivering keynotes.
Jérôme Mouly holds a Master of Physics from the University of Lyon (France).
Medical Wearables: Market and Technology Trends 2019
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