En español | A wristband that helps you cool off or warm up quickly, offering relief from hot flashes or increasing your comfort, won AARP’s Innovator in Aging prize Tuesday morning.
AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins presented the award to the company, Embr Labs, for its Wave device during a live segment on Good Morning America. The advocacy group for older adults increasingly is looking to boost the development of new technologies that can improve lives.
“We want to spark new ideas and creation so that more people can choose how they want to live as they age, and that aging is really fueling economies all over the world,” Jenkins says. “In the U.S. alone, $7.6 trillion of annual economic activity is sparked every year by people over the age of 50.”
Sam Shames, chief operating officer and cofounder of Embr Labs, says he invented the Wave wristband, in part, to help his mother.
“My mom is always cold, and her friends have been experiencing hot flashes for years,” Shames says. “Temperature is personal, but the world doesn’t treat it that way.”
Embr Labs launched in September 2017 with the Wave, a device you wear like a wristwatch. Instead of telling time, though, the accessory uses algorithmically designed waves of thermal energy so the wearer feels the sensation of being warmer or cooler. The Wave can offer relief from hot flashes, improve sleep and help manage stress.
By focusing on one small part of the body — the wrist — the device is able to make you feel more comfortable. Shames compares the effect to that of putting an ice cube on your wrist on a hot summer day.
“When one part of your body is uncomfortable, you can counterbalance that effect by creating opposite sensations on another part of your body,” he says. “It’s just like how warming your feet by the fire can make your cold feet feel better on a fall night, or dipping your toes in the ocean can make you feel cooler on a hot day.”
The Wave currently sells for $300 and requires a smartphone for the mobile app that adjusts the temperature settings.
The other company that was a finalist for the Innovator in Aging prize was Aidar Health. Its product, MouthLab, could help people with chronic conditions, along with the caregivers and health care workers who assist them. The device can measure and record a wide variety of data about a person’s health through one quick step.
You hold the device to your mouth and breathe into it for roughly one minute. MouthLab tracks your respiratory rate, pulse, oxygen saturation and other vital signs in real time and digitally transmits the information so that doctors and caregivers can see the statistics in real time on a secure website or smartphone app.
Sathya Elumalai, cofounder and CEO of Aidar Health, says he saw the technology as a way to help him care for his mother, Viji Elumalai, who is 63 and living with multiple chronic conditions, including diabetes, a heart condition and hypertension. Using the MouthLab device has become part of her normal daily routine, like brushing her teeth.
“It’s the check-engine light for humans,” her son says. “We’re trying to build something you use every single day, without thinking too much. But then one day, it will light up and say, ‘Hey, sorry, something’s wrong.’ So, that’s what we really wanted to bring to this world, and then, hopefully, save some lives.”
Elumalai says the company hopes to start distributing MouthLab, which has been under development for roughly 10 years, next summer.
The Innovator in Aging prize is part of AARP’s long-term commitment to finding solutions that help people live better.
“The pace of technological advancements in both hardware and software, coupled with the decrease in production costs, creates the perfect environment for innovative companies to develop new disruptive solutions that empower older adults to take control of their health and well-being,” says Andy Miller, senior vice president of innovation and product development at AARP.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Oct. 11, 2019. It has been updated to highlight the award recipient.