Business Unusual

Are 'wearables' a fad or will we all be wearing one within the decade?

The pocket-watch is probably a good starting point for wearable technology and the term "wearable" had a peak just after World War II before its current leap usually describing what is basically an updated watch.

The race may have only started a few years ago with the Kickstarter project for the [Pebble watch](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pebble</i>(watch) in 2012. But, with many new entrants, including big players like Apple and Google, you can bet there will be a big push to make these devices more powerful and cheaper. As far as an appetite to buy them; the Pebble watch set a new record for money raised on Kickstarter at the time.

But do you really need to spend thousands of rands for a watch with a one-day battery life to tell you the time and view an email? I don't think so.

The real value of the devices is not what they will be able to display, but in what they are able to detect. That story began in 2007 with the Fitbit, currently the most popular health tracker.

A perfect example occurred in September 2015 when a teenager who had recently bought an Apple Watch saw that his heart-rate remained high after sports practice. He went to hospital where they found he was facing organ failure which could have killed him. His father had originally thought the purchase a waste of money, but following the incident bought one for himself and his wife.

Sensors have improved to allow for the constant tracking of multiple health indicators from heart-rate, movement, temperature, sleep patterns, location, UV exposure and weather conditions.

When combined they provide an impressive picture of your life. That picture is of benefit to those wanting to keep fit and active, the elderly and the young, in fact it would be of value to anyone.

Store the data online where it can be processed and you have what is in effect a doctor monitoring you all the time.

Here is how they can help.

For the health conscious

Tracking exists for distance, speed, calorie consumption and heart-rate. The data is aggregated and provides feedback on progress and goals. Many allow the data to be shared to a community turning the exercise into competitive games.

The data might also be aggregated to monitor wider patterns like sleep recently reported using the Jawbone UP or fed to services like HealthKit or Microsoft Health Vault.

For the elderly

You can track movement, set medication reminders, get rapid emergency response and vital signs monitoring. The data can be shared with carers, children or medical staff.

For the young

There are options from when you are pregnant, for new-borns and children to track heart-rate, breathing and for older children a GPS-enabled-watch that allows you to track their whereabouts. This information will connect to the phones of the parents and in some cases pass the information to medical experts.

Your online medical record

The huge amount of data builds into a very comprehensive medical record, tracking weight, activity and a variety of medical indicators, when added with a medical health assessment it could watch for high risk early warnings for things like heart attacks.

Both HealthKit and Microsoft's Health Vault provide you with a safe online record that can then be shared with medical experts or even insurance companies.

If there is a fly in the ointment for the rise of wearables, it will be our own reluctance to admit that our lifestyles are probably our biggest health risk.


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