Over the last few years, wearable technology has progressed quite rapidly. Today, consumers have access to wearable devices of all sizes, shapes and styles ranging from ID bracelets and Holter monitors to heart rate monitors and calorie counters. There is no doubt that microdigital electronic technology has changed drastically and has changed our lives. The one area where wearables have made a significant impact is healthcare with an increased usage in devices that can monitor breathing patterns, blood sugar levels, oxygenation, heart rate, and periods of apnea and so on.
The wearable market started out in the early 2000s but within a few years, this market segment has shown significant growth and acceptance. Latest research data released by Technavio Research reveals that in 2016 the global wearable device market was valued at more than $ 2 billion. Within the next 5 years, it is expected to reach to $6 billion.
This demand for wearables is not only a North American phenomenon but has also been observed in Western Europe, Asia, South America, and even parts of Africa. Many consumers today own and use some type of wearable on them like wearable band, smart watch, or a wristband. A primary reason for this growth is affordability. Due to a decline in manufacturing costs, wearable devices are now available at economical prices encouraging people to purchase and make them a part of their everyday life.
The future of wearables looks brighter than ever because of ongoing innovation in the industry. Recently Sony Ericsson has partnered up with the London College of fashion to design a digital garment with blue tooth technology. They are also developing fashion-forward, technologically enhanced garments that use a wearable device called LiveView. The device is connected to your phone and enables you to check your texts, emails and tweets while you’re on the move. The dress lights up when a call is received. They plan to design dresses that can be worn out on the town but you still won’t miss a call. Many other similar digital garments have been made for celebrities and musicians who like to wear exotic hoodies and costumes.
Hospitals have also increased their use of wearable devices since they are non-intrusive and can monitor patients both in and out of hospitals. The US military is also not staying behind and is using headgear with holographic optics. The headgear contains night view ability, listens for noises, and allows communication between other members of the military.
Wearable technology is moving so fast that now there are conferences and seminars held almost every month in some part of the country. Wearable devices are being used both for personal and business reasons. Healthcare is one such example where wearable devices are being used extensively to 1) track fitness 2) work as a hearing aid 3) enable remote treatment of voice and speech disorders of people with Parkinson’s disease 4) help relieve stress and 5) enable communication. Their use is expected to continue to increase as wearable technology expands and new devices come with more real time applications.
Due to the portability and cost effectiveness of wearable tech, they are popularly used by young people and other professionals. The potential for wearables is endless and each year, Apple, Google and many other companies are coming up with newer models of their smart watches and eyewear. Even contact lenses have been embedded with electronic technology to monitor eye pressure. Glaucoma patients can be treated before any permanent damage can occur. Another product that is expected to make a significant impact is the smart shoe for the visually impaired. There are also novel wearables that can monitor sleep apnea patients in their home, thus eliminating the need for in-office sleep studies.
Wearable technology has transformed healthcare and also offers significant opportunities in the area of telemedicine. Individuals who reside in rural areas or areas of the country where there is limited access to healthcare, can send their vital signs and body images to doctors almost anywhere in the country. Hopefully, this will also cut the cost of healthcare.
Wearable technology also provides benefits for senior citizens, especially those who live alone. They can not only track their location but also offer their visual images. So far, the government has not introduced any guidelines for the use of wearables in the health industry as it deems them to be of low risk. However, there is concern among healthcare professionals that these devices may be prone to hacking and personal medical information may be compromised. This is one area that needs to be addressed if the market continues to expand at the same pace.