Wearable technology is a category of electronic devices that can be worn by a consumer to track fitness and health or worn just as a fashion.
Recent surveys show that wearable devices are not as popular and useful as expected, because they are not solutions for all users as fitness tools. Also surveys find that their usage is now extended to patients.
Fitness tracker and Smart watch
Fitness tracker is the most popular wearable device because of its affordable price and convenient size to wear on the wrist or clip to a belt.
It helps users to track and monitor their daily fitness conditions such as counting the steps and distance they travel, the heart beat rate, the calories burned and monitoring how well they sleep.
Smart watches are modern wrist – worn watches that connect to users cell phones. Besides telling time, they alert you when there are incoming calls and e-mails.
Popular brands of smart watches from Apple, Samsung and Pebble also include all the features of fitness trackers and new functions such as Global Position System (GPS) with geographic information for runners, golfers, swimmers etc. Moreover, these tracking features can work with thousands of health and sports apps to produce more data.
Fitness devices and smart watches are often worn by young and healthy users.
Fitness wearable devices: Not solutions for all
Study finds that using wearable fitness tracker got slightly improved levels of physical activity, but this increase might not be enough to benefit health in the short term.
Another study highlights that only a small percentage of users persist after wearing trackers for over six months. Interests in smart watches last much longer as they are personal belongings with more functions than fitness trackers.
Experts advised that users should not take trackers as forces to change their behaviors. People should try trackers on, monitor and understand their own behaviors and set direction. Then users should review fitness data, find out their own abilities and proceed small changes in their daily routines.
New fitness trackers and medical apps provide new specific capabilities for some health focused users. These users will find the technology genuinely useful and stick to them. Therefore, fitness trackers will evolve to specific solutions to meet needs of some users rather than one size to meet all.
Usage move to patients
With rising interests from medical practitioners and patients, technology companies have been developing wearable devices to track specific conditions of patients. These sensor devices may need to be attached to certain parts of bodies as “implantables” under the skin, 24 hours a day.
They can provide powerful tools to monitor, often remotely, patients’ health and improve caring for the sick. Patients do not need to pay repeated visits to the physicians’ offices. Therefore, public healthcare costs can be reduced.
For example, doctors can prescribe trackers to monitor patients’ heart conditions online. Physical therapists can ask patients to wear devices to track at-home exercises routines.
Technology companies and app developers on wearables will work with healthcare organizations to show evidence that the data from wearable technology are trustworthy and align with medical standards.
Secure network and health databases
More health data will be collected online from medical wearable devices to hospitals and physicians for monitoring, analyzing and initiating actions.
Data have to be transmitted and shared over a very reliable network serving homes and hospitals. In some cases, the transmission of information could literally lead to life-or-death situations.
Medical data and records transmitted from wearables and centralized in databases are among the most sensitive types of personal data. To protect individual privacy, stringent regulations and security measures must be enforced on these networks and databases.
Wearables market beyond health
Consumers believe that wearables have uses beyond health and wellness. They find them useful to include personal safety devices such as panic buttons and personal locators in their smart watches or jewelries.
New wearable products can connect to the wearers’ phones over Bluetooth. If the user taps the device twice, it will send a signal to alert his/her whereabouts to friends and family.
New smart watches can also be used for mobile payment by placing them close to compatible point-of-sale terminals in stores.