After the recent successes of the new Fitbit and Jawbone, 2014 has undoubtedly been the year in which wearables have started to be taken seriously.
Already embraced by fitness geeks, how could they transform the healthcare industry if accepted by a broader user base?
If we used wearable technology to send automatic round-the-clock biometric data to medical professionals it would certainly aid in the monitoring of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, where tracking and measuring variables can help to keep patients out of hospital.
In addition, those living in rural areas could avoid long commutes to see a doctor for trivial tests, as vital signs could be assessed remotely and stored to track trends. The much anticipated Apple Watch is even rumoured to be able to “listen” to blood flow and thus predict heart attacks.
Google is one of the companies leading the charge in healthcare innovation having teamed up with pharmaceutical giant, Novartis, to develop a “smart” contact lens in order to help diabetics monitor their glucose levels in a non-invasive way. Another project, the much discussed Google Glass, can be used by medical teams to live-stream operations and demonstrate new techniques and allows experienced surgeons to provide remote insight to inexperienced medical professionals.
Currently, wearables are seen as something of a gimmick, either a niche item reserved for sports stars and the super-fit, or something to be bought, used for 2 weeks and then placed in a drawer alongside your PalmPilot and Minidisc player.
If wearables are embraced, they could enable us to be attuned to the warning signs of various illnesses. This would allow for early treatment which would reduce the later need for costly treatments and hospital visits. All of this can combine to ultimately give patients a better quality of life and after all, isn’t that what technology is all about?