Wearables are electronic monitoring devices which a person wears on the body to observe, examine and communicate real-time personal data. These are fitted with built-in sensors that keep track of bodily movements, provide biometric identification or assist with location tracking. Wearable devices come in different forms and sizes, e.g., fitness trackers, headbands, posture monitors, wearable patches, smart glasses, smart watches, Virtual Reality (VR) headsets, heart rate monitors, sleep trackers, and artificial intelligence (AI) hearing aids etc. With each passing day, these smart devices are becoming an essential part of our daily lives. Moreover, these devices are capable of reading notifications, sending messages, making phone calls, etc. New devices are continuously entering the market with better functionality and application, contributing remarkably to a better and well-monitored lifestyle.
Benefits of Wearable Technology
Wearable devices offer a lot of benefits to the user, some of these are shown below:
Wearable devices provide instant feedback that aids the user to monitor his vital stats in real-time, such as sleep patterns, steps taken, exercise duration, calories burnt, heart rate variability, body temperature, etc. The user can set his fitness goals and monitor the progress over a while to work on the areas that require improvement.
Mobility and Convenience
Wearables are portable devices which makes them more convenient to use and handle as compared to smartphones. It is not required to take devices out of our pockets every time to check the readings. Similarly, they can also carry out many smartphone functions, e.g., phone calls, messaging, emails, notifications, etc. Additionally, it is very easy to share the conceived data directly with doctors or healthcare professionals. The convenience offered by wearables is one of the biggest factors behind their popularity.
Wearables have evolved into small, less conspicuous devices over time. The latest devices end up looking more like a piece of jewellery or clothing. They can be kept hidden from public view in the form of something like a skin patch or strap. Some safety wearables are identical to a finger ring or hair band, but they can show your location to your friends and family if you’re in danger.
Ideal for Chronic Diseases
Wearables are the best option for chronic patients, people with old age, and working professionals. Medical wearables allow patients to observe their health and improve vital statistics. In future, the scope of these devices is likely to change from a reactive to a preventive approach. Similarly, these devices are also in use as diagnostics for prevention and better management of chronic diseases like phobias, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorders, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and asthma.
Risks and Challenges Associated with Wearables
Wearables certainly have associated risks that can adversely affect their users physically as well as psychologically. To maintain the demand of these devices and trust of the user, the manufacturers need to minimize the risks and challenges associated with them. Some of these risks are:
Cyber Security Risks
Many wearables have little to no security measures to keep their collected data safe and secure. Much of the collected data is unencrypted and most of these devices use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth networks to transmit data, which means cybercriminals can easily get hold of it and abuse it by any means possible.
Low battery life is a grave concern for many wearables. Due to limited space, they are unable to operate for a long time, ultimately affecting the device’s performance. Moreover, battery heating and limited communication range are some other technical issues associated with wearables.
Reliability, validity, and accuracy of data are some other grey areas. The collected data may get corrupted if the device is worn wrongly or on different body parts than advised. This inaccurate data can adversely affect the correct diagnosis. Due to inaccurate vital health statistics, healthcare companies can also get indulged in certain medico-legal liabilities. To enhance efficiency, the issue of data inaccuracy needs to be addressed.
Apart from the above, wearable devices can be associated with health hazards such as cancer due to the radiation emitted by them being closely attached to vital organs for a longer period. Some other potential health issues may include skin problems, allergies, nausea, headaches, dizziness, and many others.
Future Prospects of Wearable Technology
The wearable is a booming market as many new players are entering the field with better offers and services for upcoming requirements of consumers. It can safely be predicted that wearables will continue to grow in popularity owing to factors like increasing affordability, wide-ranging applications, rising awareness about health and well-being, increasing acceptance of emerging technologies, growing web connectivity, and advancement in AI etc. Some of the potential areas of future advancement in wearable technology are as under:
Longer battery life
To cope with the issue of short battery life, some developers are considering alternative power sources for the wearables. One such method is called energy harvesting, by which body heat, solar energy, and even movement are converted into electrical power, which can prove to be a game changer for wearable technology.
The medical industry is manufacturing wearables that can be implanted underneath the skin. This would allow users to track all types of medical data that are currently unavailable, including blood analysis, effects of drugs, etc. Currently, an artificial pancreas is under development for diabetes patients, which will continuously monitor blood sugar levels and automatically supply the required insulin in the blood. This revolutionary technology has the potential to change the lives of many shortly.
Wearables also have a great application in the area of authentication for performing various actions like unlocking your home, buying things at the stores without having to go through the checkout process, and Magic Bands that give customers access to rides in adventure parks etc. Even smart tattoos are under development that could be used for similar purposes. In this way, wearables could change our mode of interaction with the world by speeding up various processes, and thus making our lives faster, easier and better.