Wearables could also revolutionize healthcare. Researchers at Belgium's IMEC and elsewhere have been working on body area networks for many years, making stepwise advances. Today, Bell wears a Fitbit heart rate monitor. He also has invested in multiple startups specializing in wearable health devices, including Bobo Analytics, which makes a heart sensor worn like a wristwatch.
"I feel strongly you have to get healthcare out of the hands of people like cardiologists," he told me.
He and others see a future where people are continuously monitored. Cloud services analyze and track the data, reporting and hopefully anticipating problems.
Here again, there are technical and market/policy issues. For example, so-called dry sensors casually worn in clothes and accessories have to get much better in collecting accurate data in the midst of the noise in and around the body. And I don't even want to open the Pandora's box of policy issues around liability and reimbursement. They make the debate around Obamacare sound like chamber music.
It's fascinating to watch the growing number of people involved with Google tinker more or less in the public eye with a prototype of the next big thing. But let's get some perspective here -- they are far from the first pioneers in this field.