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A Brighter Future: Are Wearable Devices Making Us Healthier?
The past few years have seen a rise in wearable technology, ranging from smartwatches to virtual reality headsets. But how are devices affecting our physical and mental health and what does this mean for the future?
12 September, 2021

The past few years have seen a rise in wearable technology, ranging from smartwatches to virtual reality headsets. But how are devices affecting our physical and mental health and what does this mean for the future?

Staying physically and mentally healthy is important. A healthier lifestyle lowers the risk of many illnesses and diseases. It also increases productivity of individuals as it leads them to feeling energetic. In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, one must have a healthy diet and exercise regularly. However, as lives become busier keeping track of our health slowly becomes a secondary priority. Fortunately, we have various smart devices these days that can help us look after ourselves and maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

In the present day, the most common wearable technology is likely the smart watch. The first smartwatch was the Microsoft SPOT (Smart Personal Object Technology) that was launched in 2004. It could provide the user with information such as weather, news and stock updates. Modern smartwatches do so much more and one of its most popular features is health and wellbeing. Many smartwatches can function as fitness trackers. They can track physical activity, blood pressure, sleep, heart rate and footsteps. These features are used to give users extra insight about their daily fitness and health routines. 

Apart from smartwatches, other more specialized smart accessories are entering the technology market. These include smart belts, smart rings, smart glasses and smart shirts. These devices, similar to the smartwatches, have various health and wellbeing tracking features and are being developed as alternative fitness tracking devices. They can thus provide users with daily motivation, accountability through third party apps and personalised fitness goals. Having accountability can help users be more motivated as it provides a form of competition. Many companies even offer rewards which motivate users to exercise more. 

Although not technically considered wearable devices, there are many gaming consoles that help keep people physically active and track activity such as calorie loss. The main console feature that allows for this is motion control technology, used most notably in the Nintendo Switch. Released in 2017, the Switch provided users a more interactive method of keeping healthy. They offer a wide variety of games such as Just Dance, Ring Fit Adventure, and Fitness Boxing, which are designed to get people active. The switch uses ‘Joycons’ which can be detached from the main console and worn on the user’s wrist via a Joycon strap band. Other gaming consoles have previously tried motion control features, such as VR (Virtual Reality) headsets. Beginning in the 2010’s, companies started developing VR headsets. Other than being an immersive first-person experience, there are many games developed for these headsets that encourage the user to move around. The device is worn over the head and can be used hands free or with a controller. People can become reliant on smart devices and the live data presentation may come across as invasive to many people. Technology companies are trying to overcome this issue by using smaller, more discrete gadgets like smart rings. Most of these devices are connected to a smart phone where all the data is collected and stored. The communication form used by all these devices is NFC (Near Field Communication). NFC allows you to make secure transactions, connect electronic devices and exchange digital content. The best devices can be expensive, which make them seem more like a luxury than a necessity. Most devices also do not have long lasting batteries and thus require daily charges. There is also an ongoing debate over how accurate the devices are at collecting data, since most tend to provide averages rather than exact values. As integrated health tracking devices have become a major feature, there is constant development being done to make these devices quicker and more accurate. 

The impact of this data affects many industries, including but not limited to the healthcare industry, which has been focusing on prevention rather than cure in recent years. Data from devices that track health and wellbeing can be used to give medical professionals actionable insights on individuals. There are a few issues facing the healthcare industry, such as budgeting and clinical uses. Financially, the system depends on whether doctors have additional time to analyze and interpret the data and devise treatment plans. Clinically, as the data is not medically graded, it makes it challenging for a doctor to consider the data in the overall treatment process.

Nonetheless, wearable technology is more predominant in our lives than ever before. As we move more towards a technological future, it is important for us to look after our health and use technology to our advantage whether it be on a personal scale or industry level.

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