Sav­ing lives with wearable tech

Tech Advisor - - NEWS -

Rowena Heal re­veals how we could be us­ing wearable tech to help the el­derly and save lives

For many con­sumers, wearable tech is still a gim­mick, sit­ting some­where be­tween the realm of trendy fash­ion items, kids’ toys and fit­ness ac­ces­sories.

For years its role fo­cused on the lu­cra­tive fit­ness mar­kets, mean­ing it has largely missed out on op­por­tu­ni­ties to of­fer pos­i­tives in healthcare and law en­force­ment. It’s no real sur­prise, as the value of wearable tech in the fit­ness mar­ket alone could ex­ceed $16.1bn this year, but around a third of peo­ple buy­ing a wearable prod­uct will likely aban­don it within six months. Sug­gest­ing a new ap­proach is needed to en­sure con­sumers con­tin­u­ally use their prod­ucts.

UK po­lice have been wearable video record­ing de­vices for the past 10 years and the New York Po­lice Depart­ment have been pi­lot­ing Google Glass since last year, largely due to an in­creased need for ac­count­abil­ity – high­light­ing two great ex­am­ples of ex­tremely pos­i­tive uses of wearable tech­nol­ogy.

Volk­swa­gen re­cently an­nounced an app for the Ap­ple Watch al­low­ing par­ents to mon­i­tor the driv­ing habits of their teenage chil­dren. Car-Net of­fers au­to­matic in­ci­dent no­ti­fi­ca­tions, road­side as­sis­tance and the ‘Fam­ily Guardian,’ which no­ti­fies par­ents when the driver ex­ceeds the speed limit.

The US and Ja­pan have so far led the way on de­vel­op­ing and adopt­ing wearable tech in healthcare, aimed at help­ing chron­i­cally ill and older peo­ple. In the UK, how­ever, the el­derly are only now be­ing prop­erly in­cluded in the de­bate.

Wearable tech­nol­ogy has a huge part to play in help­ing peo­ple in later life, but it will be up to de­vel­op­ers to cap­i­talise on this and ap­peal to the older de­mo­graphic. Panic but­tons, wearable emer­gency call bracelets and neck chains al­ready save lives and are vi­tal for older peo­ple liv­ing on their own. This tech­nol­ogy, how­ever, has been around for a long time and has far-reach­ing po­ten­tial; help­ing the el­derly live longer and more in­de­pen­dently, a trend of­ten called ‘ag­ing in place.’

Auto-di­alling panic alarms fit­ted into the phone, can then by ac­ti­vated by Wi-Fi pen­dants, which are cheap and use­ful. A step up is fall-de­tec­tion sys­tems, that use ceil­ing mounted op­ti­cal and acous­tic sen­sors to de­tect mo­tion in the room. It can then phone an emer­gency num­ber for as­sis­tance and is en­hanced by a voice-ac­ti­vated func­tion ask­ing the user how they are feel­ing. If they re­spond, the alarm will can­cel, so it won’t go off if they de­cide to just take a nap.

For older peo­ple, the cost of go­ing into a home can be star­tling. Residential care for older peo­ple costs tens of thou­sands of pounds each year, and any­thing that can help them stay in their own home for longer can only be a pos­i­tive thing.

Wearable tech­nol­ogy has a huge part to play in help­ing them in later life and it will be up to the de­vel­op­ers to help cap­i­talise on this and prove it can play a key role in ben­e­fit­ing lives. Whether it’s re­mind­ing some­one to take med­i­ca­tion, mon­i­tor­ing their sleep pat­terns, knee braces with stress sen­sors or move­ment recorders, the po­ten­tial of wearable tech in healthcare is vast. Tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ers clearly want to tar­get lu­cra­tive mar­kets and fit­ness cer­tainly is that, but as the pop­u­la­tion ages, more peo­ple could ben­e­fit from a re­freshed fo­cus from de­vel­op­ers.

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