Wearables: The smart way to keep watch

14. October 2015
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Portable minicomputers, ie wearables, have the future in their hands. They collect vital signs during exercise, protect against sunburn, or warn whether our children have fever. The gadgets have taken a foothold in our love lives. Medical advice is nonetheless not made superfluous by them.

Running data via running shoes, heart rate monitoring via SmartWatch, calorie consumption data through the t-shirt –wearables have long since arrived in the fitness market. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) the global market will by the end of 2015 reach a value of 6.3 billion Euros, and will up until 2018 continue to grow at annual rate of 21 percent. “This connectivity is embedding itself more and more in everyday objects,” says Thomas Kiesling, Chief Product & Innovation Officer of Deutsche Telekom AG. Individual areas of application are merging more and more into a single “internet of objects”. Many a lifestyle gadget has thus metamorphosed overnight into being an aid to health professionals. Some of the innovations from the last few months:

Fit on four wheels

For people in rehab, movement is vital. Chaotic Moon has brought out a tracker for people with paraplegia. The new tool, given the name Freewheel, can be mounted on the wheelchair and determines velocity, acceleration, distance, height, slope and even surface conditions. While the manufacturer is planning to develop terrain maps, doctors see new ways to mobilise patients.

In the Heat of the Night

When dealing with young patients in general, core concerns lie elsewhere. When young ones have the ‘flu, parents tend to most favour measuring fever at hourly points. This rob children of a well-deserved night’s rest. Blue Spark Technology’s TempTraq gives security and tranquillity at the same time: The smart patch can remain on a patient’s body for up to 24 hours. Using Bluetooth the broadcaster device transmits temperature data to a smartphone. Parents or babysitter need only in addition an app in order to monitor body temperature. Sproutling works in contrast by way of a band placed on the ankle, recording the heart rate, skin temperature, movement and reclining position. Here as well, all it takes is one glance at the app to see how things are going with the young one. This small program makes recommendations on better sleeping position. Paediatricians see application possibilities when aiming to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The prone position is considered a possible risk factor.

Emerging unscathed

Adults benefit equally from wearables. The designer Marie Spinali equips swimwear with small, water-resistant sensors. Chips detect temperature values ​​and UV radiation. The system then continues with an analysis app. The user to begin with enters her skin type and other life habits. And her bikini promptly warns about the presence of too much UV radiation, and too long a time period spent sunbathing – including reminders to properly apply sunscreen. Spinali now wants to dedicate herself to children’s fashion. She is proposing GPS sensors, so that parents can locate their children right away and apply some cream.

Passion 4.0

After a relaxing day spent on the beach, erotic ideas take over – and of course not without wearables being present. One startup based in San Francisco has developed “Lovely” specifically for men. The gadget is worn like a penis ring and captures varied data during lovemaking. Using Bluetooth, bits and bytes make their way to a smart phone. Instead of “having a cigarette afterwards”, reading a “tip afterwards” might soon be what happens – “Lovely” recommends various positions. What seems obscure at first glance actually has serious background relevance. Programmers aim to help couples to achieve a more fulfilling sex life. It is also conceivable that later versions will provide guidance as to when men should seek medical advice.

Data on a larger drive

So many ideas, and yet all this is not done using hardware. Wearables exchange data with other devices or send bits and bytes to a cloud. Bandwidth is considered a limiting factor. For this reason Teraki from Berlin has been working on slim files for use in the internet of objects – the basic idea here being something comparable to compressed formats such as JPEG or MP3. In future, each sensor could be equipped with an encoder for space-saving and secure packaging of data. The decoder unpacks and decrypts all information. Should patients still remain sceptical, it’s worth taking a look at solutions at ReVault. This startup from Sweden has developed “WearableClouds”. Pendants, watches and necklaces transmit up to 128 gigabytes of well encrypted information, for example to health professionals. Yet many a colleague dismissively confront wearables.

On to the doctor

The central question: Will intelligent solutions in future make medical diagnoses superfluous? It is indeed true that 68 percent of experts interviewed on behalf of Invensity judged wearables to be a crucial technological development of the future. Laymen are however often overwhelmed when selecting the appropriate tools and interpreting readings correctly. “A self-diagnosis made through misinterpretation of this data can have serious consequences”, Paul Arndt, Head of CoE Software Engineering at INVENSITY states, offering something to bear in mind”. In a serious case, it is still a valid idea to first see a doctor”.

Yet even here the need for information absolutely dominates. According to DocCheck Research’s new study “Share for Care “ on the topic of self-tracking, over half of the doctors declared that they are not at all or not as yet deeply familiar with today’s self-tracking possibilities.

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