Wearables are electronic devices that are worn on the body part to track, analyze and transmit real-time personal data of the health or workout. The wearables come in different forms and sizes and some of the most common devices include a fitness tracker, headbands, posture monitors, wearable patches, smart glasses, smartwatch, Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, heart rate monitor, or sleep tracker, and many others. These devices are an indispensable part of our daily lives and are helpful in tracking biometric data from heart rate to sleep patterns, physical activity to atrial fibrillation, blood pressure monitor to calorie burned, and many more. Additionally, these devices are capable of reading notifications, sending simple messages, making phone calls, etc. Slowly these devices are also setting their footprint in the gaming and fashion industries as well. 

With each passing day, new devices are entering the market with better form, function, application and contributing remarkably to personalized healthcare and health management. However, just as there are two sides to a coin there are many negative aspects associated with these devices that hampers their wide-scale adaptability. Through this article, we have covered some of the benefits and pitfalls of wearable devices, which are as follows – 

Benefits of Wearable Devices

Wearable devices offer a lot of benefits to the user which today make them one of the most highly referenced gadgets for maintaining health and wellness. 

Way to Achieve Good Healthcare

Wearable devices help the user to remain active, increase their productivity, and efficiency. The devices provide instant feedback that aids the user to monitor his vital stats in real-time. These devices collect a large number of stats such as sleep patterns, steps taken, time, heart rate and heart rate variability, body temperature, and calories burned, etc. The user can set the goals and monitor the progress over a period of time, similarly can work on the areas that require improvement as well as motivate them to adhere to a fitness plan. 

Mobility and Versatility

The wearables are hands-free and portable which makes them easy to use and handle as compared to smartphones. With these devices, there is no need to take devices out of our pockets every time to check the stats. Similarly, they can perform some of the functions that the smartphone does such as messaging, phone calls, emails, notifications, and many more. Additionally, the user can share the data directly with their doctor, healthcare professionals, friends, or fitness coach. The convenience offered by wearables really makes a positive impact on the day to day life.

Ideal Option for Chronic Diseases

The wearable is popular across all age groups, however, these devices can be more valuable for people dealing with chronic diseases, old age, and working professionals. The medical wearables in particular empower the patients to monitor their health and improve vital stats. In the future, the scope of these devices is likely to diversify from reactive to preventive approaches. 

Apart from personal health, in order to promote healthier lifestyles, companies are also offering wearable healthcare devices to their employees in order to promote better health, reduce employee turnover, and boost profitability. Similarly, these devices are also in use as secondary diagnostic tools for the prevention and day-to-day management of illnesses and chronic diseases such as obesity, panic disorders, posttraumatic stress disorders, asthma, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and sleep apnea. 

Risks and Challenges Associated with Wearables

Wearables possess a certain risk that can harm the person physically and psychologically. In some cases, the person is in fact not aware of the risks associated with wearable devices. However in some cases despite awareness of the pitfalls, the person is unable to negotiate for example with the case of privacy-related issues. We have analyzed some of the risks associated with wearable which are as follows – 

Cyber Risks

The security and privacy of health records is one of the major concerns associated with wearables. Wearable devices continuously collect health information, store, transfer, and handle it at multiple points which raises concern for safety and protection. The collected data is shared online, digitally, and/or with third parties that can potentially be used for marketing purposes, or with healthcare insurance providers. The insurance companies may use the data for health policies and premiums according to the user’s behaviors, activities, and pre-existing medical conditions. The possibility of data usage for criminal abuses can’t be neglected. In some cases, the knowledge and understanding of data privacy are poorly understood by users. 

Technical Issues 

Low battery life is a concern for many wearable devices. Battery space is limited due to which they are unable to operate for a long period of time ultimately affecting the data collection. The negative user experience, battery lifespan and heating, GPS support, design, size, software reusability, and compatibility, limited communication range, comfortability, manipulation of data, lack of encryption are some other technical issues with wearables. 

Regulatory Issues

Worldwide countries follow different rules and regulations to deal with data collection, transfer, storage, and safety. Adherence to different policies may create some imbalance in the operation and data flow. Some countries follow very stringent surveillance laws and demand the local storage of data. In some cases, the companies can’t store the data for a long period of time. 

Digital Divide 

Digital Divide or affordability is also a concern for the major segment of society. People belonging to the low-income groups, rural and remote areas are unable to afford the benefits of wearable devices. The lack of internet access or device connectivity is also closely associated with low adaptability especially in remote areas. 

Technology Errors (Data Interpretation)

Reliability, validity, and accuracy of data are other drawbacks of wearable devices. The data collected may vary greatly if the device is worn on the different body parts and also vary according to the device. The inaccurate data can never be accepted for direct care or diagnosis of symptoms. If the devices show inaccurate data for the vital health stats, the companies are also out of the preview of the medico-legal responsibility. In order to enhance productivity, the risk of data inaccuracy needs to be addressed.

Apart from these, Wearable devices are often claimed to be associated with health risks such as cancer due to the type of radiation emitted by them as a result of direct contact with the skin or close proximity to vital organs for a longer period of time. Apart from cancers, some other health issues reported related to wearable devices include headaches, dizziness, nausea, and many others. However, these claims lack concrete evidence and require more elaborate research and studies to get a clear picture. 

Future Path For Wearable Devices

The wearable devices industry is likely to expand in the future owing to various factors such as affordability, wide applications, functionality, rising awareness about health and well-being, an increasing number of smart devices, better connectivity via IoT, advancement in AI,  and an increasing interest of tech giants towards wearables.

The wearable is a booming market as many new players are entering the segment with better offers and services to cater to the different needs of consumers. However, to keep the demand going and to maintain the trust of the user, the manufacturers need to consider various points of concern seriously. With the rising awareness among people about these devices, it is hard to ignore the critical issue concerning these devices. For some people, the benefits of wearables may outweigh the pitfalls, but for wider acceptance and adoption, issues such as security, privacy, regulatory challenges, and the shortcoming of technical challenges are needed to be addressed.