What can wearable technology provide in health care that we can’t already do with other means?
Wearable technology has the potential to make tasks normally performed by doctors to be done by the patient with wearable devices. According to an article in Advisory Board, a researching and consulting firm, “computers will in the not-too-distant future handle 80% of the tasks that doctors do now—such as monitoring blood pressure, glucose, genomics, proteomics, and skin temperature” (“Google Flu Trends shows promise, peril of 'big data' in health care”). Computers could soon play a more important role in health care, allowing for better measurements and easier access of information, with many things having the ability to be done with a small device a patient could use at home. Wearable devices could also be used to track ambient activity that a patient may have a hard time remembering. In the article “The Rise of Consumer Health Wearables: Promises and Barriers” published in PLOS Medicine, it is explained that, “it is possible to identify the severity of depressive symptoms based on the number of conversations, amount of physical activity, and sleep duration using a wearable wristband and smartphone app” (Piwek et al.). Being able to diagnose and treat some medical conditions relies on the patient being able to remember or document certain daily occurrences, the reliability of this information falls completely on the patient and can sometimes lead to mistakes. By using wearable technology in order track patient activity the information can be more accurate and trustworthy leading to easier and more accurate treatments. While wearable tech has large applications in health, it also has a place in fitness.
Does wearable technology increase physical activity?
Wearable technology is often marketed as a way to promote and increase physical fitness, but the research behind this is mostly conflicting. For instance, In the article “Wearable tech gaining in health care, but privacy is a concern”, it is remarked that just giving a patient a fitness tracker is not enough to get them to walk more. While wearable tech and fitness trackers may promote physical activity, they do not directly cause the user to become more active (Brubaker). Even when fitness trackers seem to work initially, research shows they do not last in the long run. In an article in PLOS Medicine by four psychology graduates including Lukasz Piwek, who is also a professor of data science, it was found that, “The use of pedometers has been associated with significant increases in physical activity and significant decreases in body mass index and blood pressure… However, interventions involving pedometers and smartphone apps across clinical populations show no evidence of continued behavioral change beyond the duration of the original intervention.” Fitness trackers can show fitness benefits initially, but over time patients generally tend to fall back into the fitness habits before getting the fitness tracker. A fitness tracker itself is not enough to cause a user to immediately become more active, that responsibility falls on the user. Alongside wearable technology not exactly increasing physical activity, it can have other downsides.
What are the disadvantages of wearable technology?
While wearable technology can be very useful in day to day life, there are some disadvantages, the biggest being the concerns of privacy. In the report “Wearable Devices in the Big Data Era: Ensuring Privacy, Security, and Consumer Protection”, by the Center for Digital Democracy and American University, they warn that wearable devices could be used to profile and influence consumers via the data that they collect, and to a greater extent the data could be used to profile and discriminate individuals. Many devices that are integrated with smartphones have social media functionality, making collecting consumer information even easier for corporations. Not only could this data be used to profile and track consumers in an economic area, but it could also be used at the workplace. In the article “Why the rise of wearable tech to monitor employees is worrying”, when discussing the use of wearable technology in the workplace, it is stated that, “the right to equal employment opportunities and promotion may also be compromised if employers reserve promotion for those who are in a better physical shape or suffer less from fatigue or stress” (Manokha). Wearable technology has the potential to be implemented by employers in order to track employee's status in the workplace, and if used incorrectly has the chance of being abused in a way that discriminates against employees. While wearable technology may have some disadvantages, it can still be applied in useful ways including areas outside of health and fitness.
Can wearable technology be applied to areas outside of health and fitness?
Wearable technology is most often marketed as a tool for health and fitness, but it can be applied to other areas, most prominently is fashion. In the article “IS 'WEARABLE TECH' THE FUTURE?: Big companies bet on talking watches and super-glasses,” is it stated, “Bringing tech into the fold, developers say, will create a more seamless experience with technology that involves fewer devices to carry around and less time rummaging through your purse or pocket” (Chang). By integrating technology into clothing and other items that we already carry around on a day to day basis, it would reduce the number of devices that we need to carry with us. If technology can be integrated into something like a jacket then it could make using technology more seamless with our day to day lives. Not only can wearable technology be used in day to day tasks, but it can also be used in business and construction applications. Mark Bolas, a professor at USC School of Cinematic Arts and a researcher at the Institute for Creative Technologies, has developed a Virtual reality viewing system that allows for the visualization of design and construction. His system has been used by the oil and gas industry to visualize data and to help design vehicles in real time (“How will virtual reality change our lives?”). Virtual reality headsets could soon become an incredibly valuable asset in the industries of construction and design, allowing for the possibility of real time, first person visualization of future designs.