For International

Health by design: Wearable tech


Can a hearing aid ever be something to be desired? That’s the question Melbourne-based designer Leah Heiss grappled with in creating the award-winning hearing aid Facett. How to shift the focus from disability to desirability? Heiss created the geometric, faceted device for Blamey Saunders hears, a profit-for-purpose hearing aid company. Facett is both beautiful and user-friendly: instead of requiring tiny batteries that can be difficult to replace, it is rechargeable and clicks together with magnets. In 2018, her exhaustive retesting and remodelling was rewarded with Australia’s Good Design Award of the Year.

“It’s quite revolutionary in an industry that is traditionally conservative,” Heiss says.

It was during a year spent with Nanotechnology Victoria in 2007 that Heiss caught the world’s attention with her Diabetes Jewellery project. Using a nano-engineered patch with up to 10,000 micro-needles, the technology enables pain-free delivery of insulin to the body.

“That was when I started to think about wearables not just in an experiential, ephemeral way, but for health and wellbeing, and the bringing together of nanotechnologies and intimate scale devices and jewellery,” she says.

The Diabetes Jewellery project generated huge interest globally, with articles syndicated to 37 countries, and engendered a greater understanding of what people with diabetes deal with every day.

Heiss, a pioneer in the wearable healthcare space, brings a decidely Australian sensibility to a revolutionary and relatively young industry.

“The way we go about tech [in Australia] is quite different – we’re quite disruptive,” she says. “We just give it a go, test it out, really apply ourselves in an interesting way. I think we’re not hampered by history, we don’t have to say ‘it’s always been done that way’ … We can be quite entrepreneurial and innovative.”

Read more about designer Leah Heiss destigmatising medical devices by using cutting-edge technology to create beautiful, high-performing ‘wearables’.

Contact Austrade Singapore about the Australian health and medical industry including medtech and wearable healthcare.