Wearable Devices, or “wearables“, include a wide range of electronic devices or accessories, that are worn or embedded on the body. These microprocessors powered devices are capable of collecting and analysing real-time body data that can be traced on smartphone applications and can easily be transferred to the concerned healthcare provider for continuous monitoring.
The wearable technologies are rapidly making their way in our day to day life and tracking vital body measurements from physical activities to sleep, blood pressure measurements to blood oxygen level and so many. These devices are capable of monitoring nearly every day to day activities that the user performs and in turn, helps in maintaining health, wellness and fitness.
What areas of health care might benefit from wearable technology?
The wearable devices available in the market analyse a wide range of body data such as heart and respiratory rate, blood pressure, temperature, and sleep activity over a long period of time. The collected data can be helpful for healthcare professionals in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Similarly, the patients affected with chronic disease such as diabetes, and blood pressure can rely on these devices for the better management and monitoring of their cardiovascular functioning.
What are some great wearable tech devices?
According to the need and function, these devices come in many different shapes and sizes. Some of the most common wearable devices include –
Smart Health Watches
The smartwatches are one of the fast-growing wearable devices in the healthcare space. The smartwatches provide vital health stats such as step count, heart rate, calories burned, fall detection, sleep tracking, blood pressure, blood oxygen monitoring, emergency SOS and many more. These watches are convenient, fashionable, waterproof and help in achieving fitness goals faster by tracking daily activities. These smartwatches can perform some smart functions also that a smartphone can do. However, limited battery life, BlueTooth range, small screen size, tendency to break and data quality are the critical challenges in smartwatch usage. The smart health watches segment offers a huge opportunity to the tech companies. Worldwide some of the renowned companies such as Apple, Samsung, Sony Corporation, Fitbit, Huawei Technologies Co., Fossil, Garmin, and many others are involved in the development of smart health watches.
Smart Band (Wristbands)
Like smartwatches, the Smart Band is also worn around the wrist. The Smart Band is quite popular among the younger generation. It provides real-time vital stats related to physical activity, heart rate, calorie consumption, sleep duration, and many others to the user. These Smart Band can easily sync with smartphone apps, and the user can measure its day to day progress. Battery run-time and accuracy are the two key issues with Smart Band; however, in the coming years, these issues are likely to get resolved to a much larger extent. At the global level, many companies are competing in the Smart Band segment. Among them, the key notable players in the SmartBand market include Fitbit Inc., Xiaomi, Samsung, Fitbit, Redmi, Garmin, Samsung, Nike, and many others.
The smart technologies today are not just limited to the fitness band or watches. With the tech innovation, it is making its way in the lifestyle segment also. Smart Clothes are one of the examples of how technology is shaping our manner of living. Smart Clothes are also referred to as electronic textiles or high tech clothing. These clothing are embedded with sensors and hardware that provides additional features to the clothes. Connected with wi-fi or Bluetooth, the cloths collects information about the wearer while maintaining fashion and comfort. The Smart Clothes measures pressure, heart rate, to improve muscle recovery, breathing and movement rate, heat absorption, and many others. Some of the companies in the apparel and tech industry such as AiQ Smart Clothing, Sensoria Inc., Athos, Vulpes Electronics, Cityzen Sciences, Tommy Hilfiger, OmSignal, BioMan, Ralph Lauren, Under Armour, Levi’s, Samsung, are experimenting with Smart Clothes.
The most basic function of Jewelry is to enhance beauty, appearance and to draw attention, however, in line with other wearables, the Jewelry is also contributing to the health and wellness of the user while maintaining its form and function. Smart Jewelry includes a wide range of rings, bangles, locket, necklaces, earrings and bracelet, that can easily be synchronised with a smartphone. Smart Jewelry has unique features and capabilities that help them in tracking daily activity, including sleep, stress and many others. The Jewelry has an advantage over other wearable devices as these are lightweight, stylish, versatile, compact and easy to carry. The key companies in the Smart Jewelry segment include Oura, Ringly, Totwoo Fashion Technology, McLear Ltd., Bellabeat and others.
Wearable Biosensor / Healthpatch
Healthpatchs is also a type of wearable biosensor that can be easily placed on body parts for data collection. Healthpatch is lightweight, wireless, disposable and has adhesive properties which make them easy to use. These small packages can collect data in a continuous and non-intrusive manner. Depending upon types and size, the Healthpatch is capable of measuring and collecting biometric measurements such as skin temperature, stress, respiratory rate, sleep duration, step count, sleep actigraphy/sub-posture, sleep quality, single-lead electrocardiogram (ECG), posture and many others. Healthpatches is quite helpful for chronic diseases as they collect and transmit real-time, uninterrupted data (or vital stats) to healthcare professionals.
VitalConnect is the leading player in the Healthpatch Biosensor market. The VitalConnect has received FDA clearance for its HealthPatch MD biosensor for monitoring patients in their home. Gentag, MC10, LifeSignals, and Philips, are some of the other leading players in the Health Patch market.
Smart Glasses, SmartSleep Wearable, Wearable ECG Monitors, Wearable Blood Pressure Monitors and Smart Hearing Aids are some of the other Wearables gaining attention among consumers.
What are Pros and Cons of Wearable Health Technology?
The Wearable devices are getting fit into our everyday life as these devices are lightweight, convenient to use & carry, and are available at affordable prices. The devices increase the health & fitness awareness among the user, motivates them to stay fit, helps in achieving fitness goals and have the potential to reduce hospital readmission (doctor appointments). Some devices, like smartwatches and fitness trackers that provide alerts and reminders regarding the crucial meetings, gym, or fitness classes, are quite helpful in increasing productivity and efficiency. The data sharing with family members, friends, physicians or with online communities of people who have similar fitness goals is quite convenient. The data collected such as the intensity of the workout, calorie loss, duration, the pace can be analysed with the help of smart application in the form of graphs and charts.
However, there are some disadvantages associated with these devices as well. Since wearable collects user data continuously, there is always a threat to data security and privacy. Most of the wearables are comparably new and have issues related to the low battery life, design, UX problems, sync with smartphones and many others. Similarly, the accuracy of collected data and error margin are other disadvantages associated with these devices.
What is the future of wearable technology in healthcare?
Over the past few years, wearable technology has got a very positive response from consumers. In the coming years also with the advancement in technology, many new wearables are expected to launch in the market which will provide momentum to the adoption of products. Companies are exploring the potential for wearable in different apparel segments such as smart vests, smart shoes, smart socks, smart tights and many others. Similarly, the increasing prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, blood sugar, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and blood pressure will also generate demand for these devices. The improvement in the microprocessors, operating systems (OS), user interfaces (UI) and the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and big data will assist to provide faster solutions that will further drive the demand for wearable devices.