Billions of people own smartphones that are packed with useful apps. They use wearable tech with sensors that sync with mobile devices - fitness trackers, smartwatches, for example.
I even read recently about a conductive ink that can be applied to clothing and other textiles, turning fabrics into sensors and wearable electronics.
The World Economic Forum refers to the 'wearable internet' as one of the mega-trends of the century. It predicts that by 2022, one in every 10 people will be wearing clothes connected to the internet.
This week, I went to Munich and spent some time at the fascinating ISPO exhibition – the world's largest trade fair for innovative sporting, health and wellbeing, fitness equipment. There was also the WT (Wearable Technologies) conference being held in parallel. So much is going on in this field; an amazing amount of imagination and development using modern technology to help us live our lives better, more easily and more healthily too.
Digital applications have the potential to transform healthcare and increase its quality and efficiency. They can allow people to adapt a disease or health condition they may have to their life - not adapt their life to their condition.
Mobile health - or mHealth – is a good example, covering medical and public health practices enabled by mobile communication devices: health applications easily available on mobile phones that allow people to improve how they manage their health and disease; sensors and apps which measure vital signs like heart rate, blood glucose levels and body temperature.
This data can be collected and used by healthcare professionals to make more accurate diagnosis and treatments, as well as to personalise medication while encouraging prevention and observance of healthier lifestyles.
The global mHealth market is growing rapidly and is expected to expand to nearly $21.5 billion by 2018. It can create jobs and economic growth by combining the ICT, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and healthcare sectors.
Since more and more Europeans use smartphones and 3G/4G networks, the EU promises to be one of its largest markets over the next decade.
Digital-based healthcare represents a major opportunity for European business.
But in Europe today, healthcare is a long way behind almost every other sector in implementing IT. This means that the full potential of an emerging sectors like eHealth and mHealth in the EU's single market is not being fully realised.
Take-up of health apps is still limited and the data collected is not yet being regularly incorporated into healthcare and disease prevention.
There are several reasons for this – mainly, a lack of common European standards and also of technical compatibility between different applications, systems and devices which have to 'talk' to each other to work properly.
For example, a patient's home health monitor should be able to communicate easily, if required, with a hospital health IT system.
Otherwise, the technology's full benefit is lost, especially in the event of a serious health risk.
These are complex challenges, given that more people, health products and services are crossing EU borders – completely normal in a single European market.
Our aim is for people who use health and fitness technology to be able to use it seamlessly when they travel, as well as securely access their health and fitness data anywhere in the EU.
In this respect, coordinating spectrum will be important - also to ensure predictability - and we are already working on this important area.
Many of these issues are addressed in our Digital Single Market (DSM) strategy.
Its strong social dimension aims to generate social value from digital investments – health, social care, active ageing and inclusion, for example.
A primary DSM objective is to coordinate digital standards across sectors and to provide full interoperability between systems and devices. Other DSM initiatives will address free flow of data and access to data as we improve the cross-border availability and deployment of digital services.
Legal issues, like unconnected national health systems play a role too – and it is for this reason that eGovernment reforms are high on our agenda.
We know that people have also concerns about health apps, like data protection and cybersecurity.
That is why we are helping to develop an industry-led code of conduct on privacy and security for mHealth apps to make sure that the data they collect is secure and that personal data is protected. Trust and security are essential for scaling up the use of digital innovation in areas like health.
Everyone wins here, not just patients and people.
For innovators and entrepreneurs, it will mean they can easily go to market across the EU with innovative digital products, devices and services.
For developers and investors, it will mean common standards and equal conditions for competition everywhere in Europe – all based on a clear legal environment that gives them long-term certainty.
We are living in an era of change and opportunity. Digital innovation can help to generate economic growth as well as bring about better health; better, safer care for patients.
First, however, the barriers preventing access to Europe's unified digital space have to be removed and the future DSM must be made safe and secure. That is what the DSM will achieve.
Another blog soon.