When it comes to the integration of high-tech into the healthcare industry, wearable technology is at the cutting edge. A myriad of innovative gadgets are currently being developed to monitor activities and create critical alerts for both individuals and caregivers. Because the market for such devices is so vibrant, the race to create better-looking, more-efficient, and easier-to-wear gadgets is becoming more dynamic every day.
Once used exclusively for tracking sports performance, heartrate trackers have now been adapted to integrate a host of functions that can enable the elderly to live at home and maintain healthier and safer independent lifestyles. Whether in the shape of wristwatches, pendants, rings, or glasses, these wearable devices are often surprisingly affordable (many of the products we reviewed cost under $100) as well as extremely efficient.
This brain activity tracker raised $1.6 million through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter in 2013. A wireless headset that monitors brainwaves and translates electroencephalography into meaningful data, the Emotiv Insight can help seniors improve focus, attention, engagement, and relaxation, while also contributing to the reduction of stress levels. The Insight’s gathered data is processed by a smartphone app, which offers users and caregivers information they can understand. This can show which times of day are most productive, while also monitoring cognitive health.
Also hailing from a successful crowdfunding campaign, Angel is a wristband advertised as “the first wearable health sensor designed to be open.” The statement refers to the device’s ability to be controlled by apps created by any developer for a variety of platforms. A workout tracker and sleep monitor, Angel can track temperature, blood oxygen levels, and heart rates, detecting irregularities and creating alerts. The device uses Bluetooth technology to send data to a smartphone application. Angel can also work as a tele-health device, logging data and updating physicians on its measurements and tracked activities.
Alivecor is a smartphone case that can turn your phone into a mobile electrocardiogram (ECG) device. By placing fingertips on the case’s two sensors, the device can offer accurate ECG readings in only 30 seconds. It is available in models compatible with the most popular smartphones such as the iPhone 4, 4S, and 5, Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4, HTC One, and the 5th generation iPod Touch.
Designed for Google Glass, this app was created to facilitate physical therapy and surgery recovery processes. Wearable Intelligence guides both therapists and individuals through exercises specifically designed for the problem at hand, using the Google Glass camera to record video of the individual performing the exercise and giving an “OK” mark when it is done properly. By providing very detailed instructions about flexion and limbic rotation, it can help maximize the positive effects of physical therapy.
Still in the prototype stages, non-invasive glucometers such as Glucowise are being developed by Apple, Samsung, and many other tech companies. Google is currently working on a contact lens with microscopic sensors that can measure sugar levels, using tears instead of blood as its fluid source. The prototype also features a tiny antenna that can send the obtained measurements to an external device. Google is also in the process of partnering with European biotech company Novartis and lens manufacturer Alcon to develop this technology for other medical uses, including vision problems such as presbyopia.
Whether helping to stimulate the brain or monitoring blood pressure and heart rate, wearable health gadgets can greatly improve quality of life for a variety of individuals, from those suffering from Alzheimer’s and diabetes to people in recovery from surgery and those suffering from a heart condition. Tech companies and healthcare experts are teaming up all over the world to develop hundreds of wearable devices, many of which are currently in the prototype stages. Fortunately, there are already many efficient gadgets you can start benefitting from today. Given the tremendous success of the first products that have hit the market, the sector’s enormous potential for the future is likely to surpass all our expectations.