Mobile Health App Market to Surpass $400 Million by 2016: ABI

With mobile health applications taking off, an opportunity exists for dedicated smartphone fitness apps, as well as embedded cellular connectivity for remote monitoring.

If you're looking to burn off the pounds from that Thanksgiving turkey dinner or holiday party this year, plenty of applications for your smartphone can help. In fact, so many health apps are being developed that ABI Research is predicting the market will exceed $400 in revenue by 2016.

Areas driving the growth are wearable monitoring devices that will transmit data to handsets using ultralow power, according to ABI's Nov. 23 report.

With the market for fitness and wellness apps expanding, companies such as mobile software developer Endomondo are targeting the enterprise market to boost employee fitness, according to Jonathan Collins, principal analyst for ABI.

Other fitness application vendors include Garmin and Runkeeper, which has announced new funding of $10 million.

On Oct. 25, Garmin unveiled its Fit application for Android and iPhone that allows users to upload workout information to the Garmin Connect Web application.

"These wearable devices and the ability to leverage online applications to collect and share fitness data within corporate health programs will provide significant boost to adoption," Collins told eWEEK.

"What we're seeing is already a movement in the market for downloading sports and fitness applications that leverage the internal sensors within a cell phone and give a level of tracking activity," said Collins.

Although a huge market exists for mobile fitness applications, remote-monitoring apps for the aging population will also have growth opportunities. In addition, people in rural areas that can't get to a doctor can benefit from the wireless technology.

Smartphone apps will dominate in fitness, but for remote health monitoring of patient conditions, cellular connectivity will be embedded in the monitoring devices themselves, Collins predicted.

"It will either be a gateway device in the home that will ship with a wearable device or cellular connectivity within the device connecting the data built into the monitor," said Collins.

With the wireless technology embedded in monitoring devices, mobile monitoring vendors will be able to simplify their supply chain and sales structure. Collins expects the market for embedded cellular connectivity in health care to grow in the next 12 to 18 months.

The study, officially titled "Mobile Devices and mHealth," is part of ABI's Wireless Healthcare Research Service, which examines wireless trends in health care like telehealth and real-time location systems.

Embedded wireless technologies such as WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee and mobile body area network (MBAN) connectivity will allow caregivers to remotely monitor patients' vital signs like heart rate, blood pressure and blood glucose levels. MBAN would use short-length radio waves to send health data over short distances.

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to rule on MBAN use this year.

Despite the potential for embedded wireless, companies such as AirStrip Technologies have developed applications for the Apple iPhone and iPad to allow doctors to monitor data such as heart readings. On April 4 the company launched AirStrip Cardiology to pull data from GE Healthcare's Muse Cardiology cloud database to track and store patient heart data. AirStrip's applications also run on handsets using Sprint's 4G network.

Meanwhile, ABI has projected mobile data services, such as Short Message Service (SMS) texting and e-mail, to grow to $7.7 billion by 2014.

The health care industry will need to support diverse mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, push-to-talk devices and machine-to-machine (M2M) remote monitoring, according to a recent report by Frost & Sullivan.