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You Could Soon Be Wearing A Health Tracker – Like It Or Not

Thursday, June 8th, 2017 by | Filed Under: Hardware & Peripherals, In The News
 
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The smartwatch market is focusing on health and fitness applications this year. According to International Data Corporation, shipments reached an all-time high in the fourth quarter of 2016 to post a 25 percent increase for the year, major wearable platforms WatchOS and Android Wear pivoted toward health and fitness applications, reflecting the focus of consumer demand. Nearly 49 percent of consumers now own at least one wearable, with 45 percent owning a fitness band and most consumers citing health as the primary motivator for buying them PricewaterhouseCoopers research shows. As wearable manufacturers seek to meet the demand for healthcare applications, smart watches and other wearable tech will continue to develop in ways that transform the healthcare industry. Here’s a look at some key trends consumers can expect from wearable healthcare devices in the near future.

Expansion Beyond Wrist-Worn Devices

So far, wrist-worn devices such as fitness bands and smartwatches have been the most popular type of wearables, but devices worn on other parts of the body will see strong growth in the next few years. Virtual reality (VR) headsets will see the biggest growth as the VR market increases eight-fold by 2020, with healthcare currently occupying the most popular application segment, Renub Research forecasts. VR is already popular in medical schools for providing students with simulated hands-on experience, but consumer applications are also emerging. For example, the Army is sponsoring the use of virtual reality devices to assist in the treatment of amputees and soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

oculus-gear

Wearable clothing is also emerging as a popular healthcare application. For instance, smart clothes have been designed that contain sensors which can monitor vital signs and exercise activity.

TruPosture-ShirtApp

Style and Quality Improvement

Wearable manufacturers have found that style plays a role in the popularity of wearables. Wearables become less popular as they become more obtrusive. The failure of the ugly design of Google Glass helped drive home this point to manufacturers.

googleglasscropped

With style in mind, smart clothing manufacturers have worked to make their products aesthetically less obtrusive and more acceptable. Toward this end, Ohio State University researchers have designed a metallic thread that’s only 0.1 mm thick which can be used to create embroidered circuits.

Smartwatch manufacturers have likewise worked to improve both the style and quality of their products to better compete with traditional watch manufacturers. For instance, Apple has used customized o-rings and adhesives to make its Apple Watch 2 series waterproof so that it can even be worn while bathing or swimming, AppleInsider reports.

applewatchactivity

Telemedicine Applications

One of the most dynamic markets in the healthcare wearables space is developing devices to deliver telehealth services. Sales and investment could swell the market for wearables used to remotely monitor patients to $43.4 billion by 2020, iData Research projects. Leading applications include cardiac implantable electronic devices and disease conditions management telehealth monitoring.

For example, Alphabet’s Verily subdivision and Dexcom have teamed up to design a wearable tracker for diabetics. It includes a disposable needle which inserts just under the skin to monitor interstitial fluid, along with a patch sitting on top that stores the electronic equipment that senses measurements and transmits them to a Bluetooth device. The tracker not only provides information, but lets wearers make treatment decisions based on the information.

patch-wearable

Wearables in the Workplace

Wearables are also making it easier for employers concerned about employees’ health and safety, which will lead to workers seeing more wearables in the workplace. Wearable medical devices can help make employer insurance policies less expensive by allowing employers to promote preventive medical practices, such as wellness programs. Wearables can also help monitor employees in hazardous working environments, such as construction workers and emergency first responders.

Thirty-five percent of employers are already using wearables for company wellness programs, a Springbuk survey says. By 2018, over 2 million workers will be required to use wearables by their employers, Gartner predicts.

How would you react if your employer asked you to wear a health monitor at work? Would you consider it an invasion of privacy? Let us know in the comments.

~ Jiro

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One Response to “You Could Soon Be Wearing A Health Tracker – Like It Or Not”

  1. Alison McC says:

    It would ABSOLUTELY be an invasion of privacy!

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