Wearables are the rising star of the technology world. With the aim of bringing powerful capabilities into small, accessible devices, wearables are creating a world of seamlessly usable real-time data services.
They’re also bringing a highly individualised and user-centric focus to the realm of digital solutions. Going beyond a ‘personalised’ service approach, wearable outputs are not only crafted to improve your user experience, but their outputs and their purpose are embedded in their users.
Whether they are designed to monitor you or interact with you, wearables have the potential to benefit people’s health, safety, and livelihoods.
What is wearable technology?
Despite having a human-centric purpose, the power of wearables hinges on advanced digital technology. They showcase human to digital connectivity, using sensors and real-time data capabilities to bring these two domains somewhat intrinsically together.
Ranging from VR headsets to fitness trackers and health monitors, wearable technology is agile, adaptable, and designed to be extremely user-centric. It has already reached across a variety of sectors, allowing all kinds of users to access personal, smart capabilities for a host of applications.
How does wearable tech work?
Wearables are in-built with powerful sensors to track our movements, our biometrics, and our location. What’s key is that this is only the first step. Wearables combine our data with additional intelligence to produce smart insight in real-time.
This is the crux of wearable technology. It’s there to go beyond simple monitoring and apply our data to create an intuitive service. Whether that’s through providing in-depth analytics, receptive digital enhancements and integrations, or highly personalised digital services.
Common examples of wearables
Smartwatches are one of the biggest consumer wearable products. Essentially acting as a mini version of your phone worn on your wrist, it displays all your notifications, calls and other daily data updates, as well as added fitness tracking abilities. The idea is to make all your most used phone functions more accessible.
Fitness trackers are more niche than smartwatches, but just as popular in the commercial world. Built for athletes – both amateur and professional – they can track your biometrics like heart rate, as well as your speed, distance, depth and altitude.
Moreover, certain products can go beyond the metrics to measure the nuances of techniques, such as rowing cadence or golf stroke. Overall, these devices give users the perfect high-level insight into their training session, from diving to cycling to climbing.
Virtual reality technology brings the digital world to life, putting users into the middle of rendered environments and translating their movements into the virtual world. Largely used for gaming applications, VR has also been used in healthcare, education, and sport.
Augmented reality technology combines the real and virtual – highlighting real-world objects and actions with digital add-ons. This could be based on the user’s real-time data or external environmental information.
Earphone or headphones are now adopting elements of the wearable domains, including live features such as virtual assistants.
What are the uses of wearable technology in real-life?
Defence and civil response
CBRN incident response is a use case which has proven to have serious challenges for the people involved.
Often these events involve responders wearing suits and equipment designed to withstand harsh elements and environments. Despite being built for protection, these suits can cause significant strain for the user on top of already gruelling conditions and demanding activities.
For example, emergency services and military members in hot countries can experience heat strain in bulky suits, or high levels of stress in active situations.
In 2013, these kinds of issues were shown to be a very real health threat as three soldiers died in the Brecon Beacons during a training exercise because of the severe heat conditions that day.
Developing suits with integrated wearable technology could help bring more awareness to people’s health during these situations. Operators could track critical biometrics such as body temperature and heart rate to monitor for heat strain and stress, as well as tracking location to ensure that people can be pulled out of activities if they show sign of declining health status.
In addition, CBRN conditions could be monitored in a similar way. Suits could detect external CBRN levels to inform users when they need to wear masks, or even detect internal leakage.
This data would allow commanders to better ensure the safety of their team and give informed orders that could potentially save lives.
Consumer health and the professional medical sector are each adopting wearable technologies to improve the quality of medical care. Sensors can be used to detect early signs of illness or health events, such as irregular heart rates, and the data can be analysed to discover important insights.
Other examples include using wearables to track blood sugar levels – something which would benefit self-monitoring for diabetes patients – or blood pressure monitors.
There is a plethora of use cases for the sports sector. Athletes can use wearables for personal progress tracking, monitoring a large range of biometrics to understand their performance and how to improve.
Specifically, extreme sports could benefit from in-depth health tracking technology. Athletes like Formula 1 drivers, underwater divers, or mountain climbers are subjected to similarly demanding conditions as emergency services or military actors. They can experience high levels of stress and significant health challenges – which could all be tracked using wearables to help preserve their safety.
The same concept of status monitoring can be applied to highly physical or high-risk careers. From astronaut training to industrial workers, being able to track and monitor employee health and safety using real-time digital technology could greatly improve workplace environments.
Not only could this reduce injury levels, but it gives employers greater oversight of their human resources and their working conditions.
What is the future of wearable technology?
Wearable technology is an expanding concept. There is ample opportunity for wearables to become a more prevalent part of our daily lives, with Forbes predicting that wearable technology will become even more deeply integrated with the human element. What we might then expect to see is a transition from external devices to integrated IoT capabilities in the objects we use every day.
Read more of our insights into the use of technology and incident modelling for protecting public health.