Not Your Dad's Fitbit: Igniting a Wearable Health Tech Ecosystem in Arizona
Applied research

Not Your Dad's Fitbit: Igniting a Wearable Health Tech Ecosystem in Arizona

How partners across Greater Phoenix government, industry, and academia joined forces on regional wearable and medical technology innovation

Igniting a Wearable Health Tech Ecosystem in Arizona

How partners across Greater Phoenix government, industry, and academia joined forces on regional wearable and medical technology innovation

Dr. Thurmon Lockhart has been “making people slip and trip and fall many, many times” over the past 20 years. He’s not a bad guy – quite the opposite, really. Lockhart has dedicated his professional life to fall prevention, in honor of his father, a World War II veteran, who grew frail as he aged and would fall. His lab studies included over 1,000 participants who willingly fell in a variety of ways while hooked to an array of sensors. These studies allowed Lockhart to develop a model that predicts when a person’s gait might put them in danger of falling. Most recently, his research has led to the creation of the Lockhart Monitor, a smartphone application that can help prevent falls. Arizona’s WearTech Applied Research Center, in collaboration with MORE foundation and Phoenix’s CORE Institute, has enabled Lockhart to test his prediction model in clinical populations as well as real-world scenarios. “Without WearTech Center, there wouldn’t be any kind of product to come out of our research,” he says. 

Lockhart’s story is just one of many driving today’s global wearable technology market, currently valued at $40.65 billion. Experts forecast that number to reach $118 billion by 2028, with North America dominating that revenue.* In 2018, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council recognized a massive opportunity for our region and moved to convene a coalition of partners to collaborate and grow Greater Phoenix’s wearable technology ecosystem.

Partners from across Greater Phoenix government, industry, and academia came together with the aim of accelerating the resources and connections needed for this new ecosystem to thrive. In turn, these efforts aid in the creation of high-quality job growth through new ventures and products, and attract industry-leading companies seeking innovation to the Greater Phoenix market. 

Ecosystem partners include:

Greater Phoenix Economic Council

GPEC works with and is supported by 22 member communities, Maricopa County, and more than 190 private-sector investors.

Partnership for Economic Innovation through WearTech Applied Research Center

PEI is a non-profit dedicated to transforming Greater Phoenix into a top global market for innovation and technology, fueled by world-class Applied Research Centers, advanced industries, and high-tech entrepreneurs.

Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation

CEI is a business incubator run by Gateway Community College. CEI assists early-stage bioscience, medical device, software, and clean technology startups.

Arizona State University through Fulton Schools of Engineering and Medtech Ventures

With four campuses in the Greater Phoenix region, ASU is recognized globally as a top-ranked knowledge enterprise focused on solutions to society’s greatest challenges, advancing a better life for all.


StartupAZ exists to empower the next generation of company builders, helping them grow, give back, and positively impact Arizona.

City of Phoenix

The 5th largest city in the country, Phoenix is emerging in the new economy with strengths in high technology, manufacturing, bioscience research, and advanced business services.

U.S. Economic Development Administration

EDA provides economic development financial assistance to communities across the nation to promote sustainable job growth.

Today, the WearTech Ecosystem is a successful venture and continues to support efforts across the region. Download the partners’ full case study to read more about their objectives and success outcomes.

Developing Wearable Technology in the Valley

A key objective for the ecosystem was to translate research output into commercial applications. The Arizona WearTech Applied Research Center (WearTech Center) helps meet that important need. 

WearTech Center, centrally located at Park Central in the heart of Phoenix’s thriving biomedical district, is a public-private partnership that was launched by the Partnership for Economic Innovation (PEI) in 2019. WearTech connects entrepreneurs and researchers in the wearable health space—like Dr. Lockhart—with companies seeking to develop next-generation health and human performance technology to work at the forefront of wearable, biomedical innovation. 

But WearTech’s presence in Arizona benefits more than just the innovators it supports. A Rounds Consulting Group, Inc. (RCG) impact study found the advanced research, business growth, and additional high-tech jobs created as a result of investment in PEI’s Applied Research Centers have generated significant economic benefits for the Arizona, Maricopa County, and Greater Phoenix region. PEI’s investment translates to approximately 134 jobs each year. Over the next 10 years, every dollar of taxpayers’ money invested in PEI’s projects is projected to generate $4 to $5 in state and local tax revenues. Arizona taxpayers should expect to see a positive return on investment from PEI’s WearTech venture right about now, within 2 years of its launch.

“Phoenix is becoming a global hub for wearable technology because of its location, its great weather, its low costs, great universities …. and our environment, the state and the government that is very pro-innovation and technology. So we are becoming a hub for wearable systems globally,” says Joe Hitt of GoX Labs, one of WearTech’s projects.

To date, the WearTech Center has secured $3.5M in private and public sector investments, supported 13 wearable technology projects and 3 WearTech projects are in the go-to-market stage.

The Future of WearTech Applied Research Center

In its next cohort, the WearTech Center will more than double its current number of projects, achieving 360% growth in total research funding compared to 2019. New projects include an on-demand mobility assistance device, an anti-anxiety device, a fetal monitor, virtual reality, and more.

Wearable technology is an increasingly diverse field with promising implications from healthcare to competitive sports. Arizona has been a growing technology hub for the past decade and thanks to the WearTech ecosystem Greater Phoenix is now poised to become the center of the next generation of biomedical product innovations.  

To learn more about WearTech Applied Research Center visit

Download the WearTech Ecosystem case study to dive deeper into the story.

*Source: Grand View Research Market Analysis Report, 2021 “Wearable Technology Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Product (Wrist-Wear, Eye-Wear & Head-Wear, Foot-Wear, Neck-Wear, Body-wear), By Application, By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2021 - 2028”


Wearable Technology, Applied Research, WearTech, Biomedical, Medical Technology, Human Performance