Remember when FitBit was in a class by itself? Wearables aren’t just for tracking steps and heart rates anymore. From watches that take your blood pressure to baby clothes that monitor breathing to yoga pants that help correct your pose, what you wear is also becoming what you know.
Take a look at some of the most useful breakthrough wearables you can use to up your fitness game and your knowledge:
What sensors can detect
Sensors in wearable technology can pick up all kinds of information from your body. In addition to gathering the kind of data you probably already know about — your physical activity, heart rate, weight, and sleep patterns — today’s wearables can track much more. Biosensors can monitor things like blood pressure, hydration level, pH balance, bladder fullness, and fetal heartbeats. And some devices can take action.
Whether that’s sending alerts to health professionals or delivering electrical impulses that reduce pain or even sending feedback about your yoga posture so you can correct it, wearables aim to improve your well-being. There’s even a term for the wireless technology that makes up your own personal IT ecosystem: Body Area Network, or BAN. With wearables, a healthcare team can remotely see what one or more aspects of your BAN are up to.
This is good news for both patients and our healthcare system at large — in just over 10 years, 20% of U.S. residents will be 65 years old or older. Remote health monitoring will make healthcare delivery more efficient and convenient and could also help contain infectious diseases because sick people can stay home and still get the advice and supervision they need.
Tiny implantable wearables take the technology to a whole other level. They may revolutionize some aspects of healthcare.
What’s available right now that you can use? Here’s a round-up of some of the most interesting options:
For athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and sun worshippers
- Light LED patches to decrease pain or speed recovery for athletes
- Breath-sensor clips and other devices for sports training (there’s an especially big market for soccer wearables)
- Hydration-level monitoring for performance and overall health
- Haptic feedback yoga pants to help you correct and improve your posture
- Watches, clips, and patches to detect UV radiation to prevent sunburn
Also, look for new lines of smart clothing and textiles coming soon.
For new parents or parents-to-be
- Fertility trackers to get your timing right
- Pregnancy bands to track fetal heart rate, kicks, and positions or uterine contractions
- Wearable breast pump that fits inside your bra and reports back on its progress
- Smart sock baby monitor to detect heart rate, oxygen levels, and sleep
You can also go all-in with all kinds of wearables for your little ones.
For people with existing health conditions or recovering
- Patches that measure glucose readings so people with diabetes don’t have to stick their fingers
- Electrocardiogram (ECG and EKC) watches and straps monitor and manage heart conditions
- Sleep apnea sensor (in development) to identify breathing problems without having to spend the night in a sleep lab
- Watch-style blood pressure monitor to help stave off heart attacks
- Patches that read pH levels to care for extreme skin dryness, eczema, and atopic dermatitis
- Harness and band system (in development) so hearing-impaired people can feel and enjoy music
- Smart shoe insoles to prevent diabetic foot ulcers
- Monitor bladder fullness to avoid incontinence
Plus, there are plenty of wearables that detect serious falls (including Apple Watch 4), monitor and track vital signs for post-hospitalization care, and to manage chronic pain.
Data privacy and security concerns
Should you be concerned that the data collected by your wearables could somehow be used against you? Maybe.
Not all devices have built-in security and, if they do, it may be possible for hackers to bypass them. HIPPA regulations are also a concern for wearables monitored by healthcare providers. Device security is dictated by manufacturers, licensing agreements, and contracts rather than regulation.
Before you jump on board with a particular wearable, take a look at the app settings to decide how much information you want to share. And make sure you know your trainer’s or healthcare provider’s security protocols so you can make informed decisions.
If your goal is to know more about yourself so you can improve your health (and possibly your life), you have plenty of new wearable options! And there are surely more to come.
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