Wearable computing is one of the hottest tech topics in health care. Wearables are portable computer systems that are attached to the user's body. Wearable computing differs from the use of other mobile computer systems such as smart phones or tablets. The user's main activity is not the use of the computer itself, but it is supported by the computer like using a prosthesis. A well known example is the hearing aid, which works without disturbing the user or being flashy.
Most prominent wearables are watches or bands that constantly measure the pulse or other vital signals ("Fitness Tracker"), goggles that can be used as computer screens from the inside and clothes equipped with various electronic components like sensors and transmitters incorporated into the textile material. The "Quantified Self" movement is particularly in touch with wearables. Different sensors generate various data and process it directly or transmit it to smartphones, laptops or tablets. Garments carrying electronic gadgetry (with and without a computer system) such as LEDs, OLEDs, LCDs or electroluminescent film are often designated as wearables as well.
Meanwhile there are a lot of commercially available components and products on the market, mainly smart watches and smart bands. One of the most exciting questions is about their future role in health care. However, to be recognized as a medical device, several questions have to be answered regarding safety, security and medical benefit.
Wearables – future preventive technology
My daily life with a wearable smart device
Wearable smart devices set new trends in preventive healthcare through activity and fitness tracking, as they allow connected consumers to take control of their personal wellbeing and mobile experience based on insights in their daily life.
The popularity of health and fitness trackers is increasing, which represent approximately 58 % of wearables’ sales volume in Europe today. Connected consumers expect their wearable smart devices to be tailored to their needs and part of a personal electronic ecosystem. (source GfK Tech Trends 2016)
Activity or fitness trackers record for example walking distance whilst monitoring calories, heart rate and pulse. These systems try to capture the whole picture of user activities throughout the day including quality of sleep and stress levels with a combination of different sensory data and try to derive indications of health related behavior patterns or Habits.
I have to get up at 7:00 o’clock in the morning and my intelligent wearable smart device learned this after a short time since I am wearing it 24/7. It seemed to be the best to have an alarm clock but when getting used to my personal wearable smart device I started to feel more comfortable and rested in the morning. What is the reason for this?
The intelligent alarm clock function will gently vibrate to wake me up at the best time of my sleep cycle. My wearable smart device starts to wake me up a little earlier because of the detected REM phases.
After getting up I go to the kitchen and prepare my breakfast – deal again with the same question as every morning what to have for breakfast? Therefore, I check the values from my wearable and have a look if the system makes some suggestions which food seems to be the best this morning. I checked the result of my sleep the last night – the result was perfect, I enjoyed a good night’s rest. My heart rate as well as pulse seems to be good as well. For breakfast the device suggests me to have enough proteins and vitamins for a healthy start into the day. So, I have cereals and a fruit salad, in my opinion the best choice.
As we can see in that example the idea is to motivate humans to activities or general healthier behavior by visualization and comparability.
Interactive and electronic companions, which are worn directly on the body, do not just track health related sensory data but also evaluate it and develop potential recommendations for actions. Wearables track progress of my fitness and provide motivational goals for next activities.
Also during the day the device is patient und supports me to stay in good condition. It reminds me to move when I sit too long or to take my medication when the device detects abnormalities of my blood sugar value.
When getting back home after work, I feel very tired. My device suggests me to take a short nap to have enough energy for the rest of the day. So, I decide to take a 15 minute nap, and again my wearable wakes me up. Then I have my work-out and go jogging. My wearable tracks the time as well as the distance of my activities. Afterwards the system analyzes the values and tells me that I scored good results. It recommends the goals for the next work-out. I should expand the rounds to keep fit and to build more muscles.
Wearables try to make challenging sports more attractive and can be used as motivation for a healthier nutrition or stress reduction.
"The development of wearable smart devices and sensor technologies will change our lifestyle."
Ulrike Haltrich |
Senior Manager Europe Technology Standards Office | Sony Deutschland GmbH Stuttgart Technology Center |
Chairperson of the IEC System Committee "Active Assisted Living"