Wearable Tech World Feature Article
September 19, 2013

The Impact of Wearable Technology in Healthcare

Wearable technology isn’t just a set of neat gadgets to have; it also embraces healthy lifestyles. Whether it’s monitoring technology like Nike Fuelband, Misfit Wearables Shine or posture-enhancing technology like LUMOback, technology is making its way from something we hold in our hands to something we can wear hands-free to enhance our lives. So it makes sense that healthcare is one industry that will see a lot of benefits from wearable tech. 

The possibilities for implementing wearable technology in healthcare are endless. In 2012, the FDA approved a sensor pill – the Ingestion Event Marker (IEM) – that monitors data in the body to make sure medication is taken properly. There was also the Freescale KL02 chip, which can be swallowed along with medication to monitor the body or embedded into diseased organs, allowing the chip to send back bio-readings via Wi-Fi (Yes...we’re talking about transmitting information from inside of your body via Wi-Fi. Welcome to the Internet of Things.) to help monitor or diagnose diseases.

There’s also the ability to grow back an eye. In 2005, Tanya Vlach lost her eye in a car accident and started to imagine a bionic one instead, with the help of a miniature camera implant in an artificial eye. She raised more than $19,600 for her “Grow a New Eye” Kickstarter campaign in 2011.

Recently, researchers at the Liverpool John Moore University received a patent for wireless sensors that can be woven into clothing. The idea behind the sensors is that they are not required to be attached to a patient’s body, aren’t visible, yet can still monitor a variety of vital signs, such as blood oxygen levels, and transmit that data in real-time wirelessly. Researchers said there’s a possibility of integrating these sensors into hospital bracelets.

Ahmed Al-Shamma, the inventor behind the technology, said, “While we are still in the early stages of development, the range of potential applications for this wearable sensor technology is immense, not just in the healthcare sector but also in sporting and military applications.”

There is also hope for those seeking pain relief. Thimble Bioelectronics is working on a patch based on Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) that’s designed to provide portable pain relief. Thimble’s vision is to treat pain just like you would put a bandage on a cut. TENS uses low-voltage electrical stimulation to alleviate certain types of pain, and includes integrated Bluetooth connectivity that works with an accompanying smartphone app for pain tracking and management. This can certainly be beneficial if you’re one of the 1.5 billion people living with chronic pain the world today and are tired of taking painkiller medication all the time.

At the Wearable Tech Expo in New York this summer, TMC’s CEO Rich Tehrani sat down with Dr. Robert Greenberg, CEO of Second Sight, to discuss professional healthcare, wearable technology and bionics. You can see their discussion in the video below:

The global market for wearable wireless devices in sports and healthcare is expected to reach 170 million units by 2017, according to ABI Research. In a study, 63 percent of U.K. users say wearable technology has improved their fitness. Another study by Rackspace found that 35 percent of Australians have used wearable technology, such as health and fitness monitors, smart glasses, watches, clothing or cameras, and 67 percent of those users believe these devices have enhanced their lives.

One thing is for sure, wearable technology is just getting started. If you want to keep up with the future of technology and how it will impact our day-to-day lives, the Wearable Tech Expo will feature a number of demos, sessions and keynote presentations to show you how. Be sure to mark December 10-11 on your calendar!

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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