n 1987, a few frustrated alt-rockers decided to have a festival to celebrate their music which was largely ignored by mainstream America. They held the first South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin, Texas. Organizers expected around 150 attendees—700 people showed up. Twenty-eight years later SXSW features films, music, interactive media, and commercial conferences catering to over 150,000 people. And in 2015, the SXSW Health & MedTech Expo featured sixty exhibiting companies that were pushing the limits of healthcare technology.
Products on display at the SXSW MedTech Expo ranged from health insurance to blood analytics and numerous wearables. A startup called iHeart presented an iOS device which clips on the index finger and communicates with an iPhone. A 30-second test presents the user with his or her “internal age.” People at SXSW were lined up at the iHeart exhibit to find out if partying hard all week was making them older on the inside.
One of the largest visual displays at the MedTech Expo was presented by Philips & Under Armour Connected Fitness. Under Armour is a leader in “smart fitness” devices which include activity trackers, activity watches, heart rate monitors, and even basketball shot trackers. The company just built a new headquarters in Austin where it hosted parties for SXSW attendees.
The most fun at the MedTech Expo was reportedly at the Withings Pop Fitness dance event. The company produces the Swiss-made Withings Activité Pop smartwatch and their event combined pop, activity, and watching when a team of “Britney Spears Dancers” showed up to host Pop Dance Workouts at the W Hotel. Great for those with the wherewithal to dance at 9:30 a.m. after a night of Texas barbeque and beer.
They say everything’s bigger in Texas and that includes SXSW. The event combines the arts, tech, food and fitness with enough diversity to satisfy almost everyone. With the addition of sixty med-tech companies and forty panels and presentations hosted by industry leaders, SXSW’s Health and MedTech Expo was busier than a stump-tailed bull in fly season—as they say in Texas.