By now, most of us are somewhat familiar with the term “Wearables” — devices such as your Fitbit that track all-day activity like calories burned, floors climbed, steps taken, etc. Devices such as these have become much more common in fitness circles in the last few years. If you’re taking your exercise routine at all seriously, you’re using at least one of these items. And they just keep improving.
Take the latest Fitbit, the Charge HR. It now has 24/7 heart-rate monitoring and can also monitor your sleep. Another one, The Jawbone, has recently added a feature that allows it to produce figures all day long, so you can take readings any time.
Yet how ‘smart’ are they, actually? For example, sleep monitoring for Fitbit basically tracks how many hours you’ve slept and nothing more. As for Jawbone, it isn’t able to say why your heart rate was different from the day before. There are no devices out there, currently, that can provide you with an idea as to why your heart rate spiked, or take a good guess as to which of the food items (or combinations) you ate precipitated a higher figure. What we get instead is so much raw data.
That’s about to change, according to some industry insiders. “Wearables” are now on the verge of becoming “Awareables,” devices that are truly smart (or dare we say, ‘wise’), that you wear, and make you aware of intimate medical-related problems to improve your health.
Here are some devices that are poised to help you in a meaningful way.
1) A Wearable that Manages Your Physical Pain
“Quell”, already available on Amazon (around $250), manages your physical pain. You wear a device below the knee day and night and, in as little as fifteen minutes, it works with your own body to stimulate sensory nerves, triggering your body’s natural pain relief response and blocking pain signals in your body.
This device is 100% drug free, which means users won’t get hooked on pain medications as they often do now.
2) A Contact Lens Designed for Those Who Have Diabetes
Google has a patent for solar-powered contact lenses that are designed for people who suffer from diabetes and those who wear glasses. The lenses are supposed to measure glucose levels in tears using a sensor and a wireless chip.
But we hear that the lenses could also measure our body temperature and blood-alcohol content. In addition, the sensors may be able to sync with your environment, so if you are allergic to tree pollen while you’re outside, the lenses can tell you to move away from that area.
In the future, the lenses could be a literal life-saver for the millions of diabetics out there.
3) A Cartridge That Helps You Quit Smoking by Dosing You With Nicotine
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every 5 deaths in the U.S. is smoking-related. Nicotine gum, patches and anti-smoking lozenges are often abandoned by cigarette users.
“Smart Stop” by Chrono Therapeutics may change that. The wearable device actually delivers nicotine throughout the day during the times when the user is craving a cigarette.
Worn on the arm or torso, Smart Stop uses disposable cartridges to feed you doses, while a smartphone app monitors the level of nicotine in your body in real-time. It begins by providing a high dose, and then, as the days pass, it slowly lowers the amount until you reach zero. The device works for 10 weeks, which is the typical time it takes smokers over the worst of it.
But we have to wait. Smart Stop still needs FDA approval.
4) A Smart Bra Keeps Track of Breast Health
“The iTBra” by Cyrcadia Health is a smart bra intended to keep track of your breast health. For those who want to be notified if they have cancer, or who want to keep track of it early on in order to prevent it, the iTBra is embedded with sensors that keep track of breast tissue conditions in order to alert the wearer of the possibility of the disease. In terms of time, we probably won’t see the iTBra for a while as the awareable device still needs funding and FDA approval.
5) Diamonds That Can Treat Brain Tumors
Scientists at North Carolina State have created a substance called Q-carbon that surpasses the luminosity and hardness of a diamond. A nanosecond of laser light onto pure carbon can create very small diamonds. Depending on the cooling period and the energy levels, the carbon can also crystallize into Q-carbon.
This new substance can be made very cheaply. As for the diamonds, it would take only fifteen minutes to create a carat. Until now, graphite and diamonds were the only known solid phases of carbon. So, yes, this is a big deal.
Q-carbon has the ability to conduct electricity, making it potentially useful to scientists. It’s currently being used to improve tools like drill bits, and to produce brighter screens for phones and TVs. Q-carbon is also being tested to make drugs to treat brain tumors. What everyone is wondering about, of course, is when Q-carbon will deliver bling to a ring.
6) A Small Sensor Relieves You of Chronic Back Pain
According to the American Academy of Pain Medicine, back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old. More than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64 experience frequent back pain. If you now slouch in your seat, it seems like it would be hard to change your behavior.
The Lumo Lift measures your posture so that you can break bad habits. The small sensor cube clips on your shirt, below your collarbone. Sensor vibrations gently remind you to sit up straight and stand tall when you’re slouching to help you look and feel your best, and also feel confident. The Lift will significantly improve your posture over time, and it’s already available on Amazon for around $80.00
7) The World’s First Truly ‘Smart’ Baby Monitor
The Exmobaby is a smart pajama you put on a newborn or infant so that its sensors are able to tell you if your baby is sleeping. The sensors also monitor a baby’s vital signs and other important data like the baby’s wellbeing and mood. The wearable measures a baby’s electrocardiogram, and a thermometer on the outside of the clothing measures a baby’s temperature and movement sensors.
The most efficient part of Exmobaby is that it can detect changes in a baby’s condition long before parents and clinicians notice them since the smart pajama is always on.
“Ok, great!”, you’re thinking, but when?
Well… it’s not that easy, unfortunately.
As these are considered medical devices, they need to be approved by the FDA, and this is a process that can often take years. Also, a statistic for measuring the use of wearables, known as ‘abandonment rates’, shows that more than half of U.S. consumers who have owned an activity tracker no longer use them.
While many fitness aficionados don’t head to the gym or the track without them, it seems they have yet to fully catch on with the rest of us. This may have something to do with the the limited usefulness mentioned at the beginning of the article, which makes it a bit of a catch 22. As PwC put it:
“More than 80 percent of consumers said an important benefit of wearable technology is its potential to make health care more convenient. Companies hoping to exploit this nascent interest will have to create affordable products offering greater value for both users and their healthcare partners.”