When smart wearables first came to the fore in the form of smart bands, it was a novel innovation of bringing fitness metrics (steps, distance, calories, etc.) to the everyday consumer and changing the dynamics of the personal healthcare industry. In a few short years, we have seen various applications of smart wearables in the form of smartwatches and heart rate monitors, as well as improvements in the kind of data that can be fetched, such as blood pressure, blood oxygen level and ECG readings. As wearables become more affordable and ubiquitous, 23% annual growth is expected, leading to a $100 billion global market by 2023, and expected to reach more than $150 billion by 2026, according to an IDTechEx report. Below are four ways how smart wearables will transform the future of healthcare:
Health Insurance: Health insurance companies can initiate a big change in their business via the adoption of smart wearables. By getting customers to opt-in to wearable programs in exchange for rewards or discounts, insurers can gather real-time data via their customers’ wearables and apply data analytics to generate deeper insights that can help them design and customize products based on an individual customer’s risk exposure. The large volumes of customer data collected by wearables can also generate deeper insights to drive better business decisions. Continuous customer monitoring would help to identify the lifestyle and life-stage needs of already-existing customers, while attracting new customers with more targeted products, thus enabling them to contain their insurance risk.
Baby Care: Smart wearables have made in-roads in the baby care space too. Products such as smart pacifiers, smart socks, smart breathing monitors are changing how new parents take care of their young ones. Innovative products are gathering data such as a baby’s temperature, heart rate and oxygen levels, all this can be viewed and shared with the family’s pediatrician via the product’s companion app. Presently, there are wearables that are designed to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome. In the future, wearables will expand their scope to help prevent other such critical & tragic early stage health emergencies of Infants.
Elderly Care: The elderly care market is where smart wearables can truly shine. For this market, wearables are presently designed to send SOS alerts, allow remote location tracking, detect and alert falls to emergency contacts. However, as more internet connected wearables emerge, it will aid in monitoring an elder’s health more closely. Firstly, the wearer’s emergency contacts, such as immediate family, doctors and hospital can remotely track the wearer’s vitals, even if they stay in another city/country and in case of any emergency, an alert can notify the wearer’s emergency contacts. Moreover, as AI fuses with wearables, they could also detect early signs of a heart attack by regularly recording, storing and analyzing key health data (blood pressure, heart rate, ECG readings) to generate patterns and detect an abnormality. This could then trigger an alarm to their doctors, who can provide reactive and timely treatments. Thus, bringing a new dynamic to the term ‘elderly care’.
Hazardous Worker Care: Smart wearables for hazardous work environments, such as oil rigs, coal mines, construction sites, etc. will help bring a new dimension to worker health and safety. Various applications of wearables such as smart glasses, smart gloves, smart watches, smart jackets, etc. are being designed to provide remote workers as well as their employers with vital data. Hazardous locations such as mines and rigs have workers who need to be regularly monitored via a central dashboard, so employers know their location, can track vitals like heart rate and fatigue, detect falls if a worker has been injured and automatically alert alarm response professionals. This would help prevent workplace injuries and provide a renewed sense of care and goodwill amongst the workforce exposed to hazardous work conditions.
(The author is the Co-Founder at Sanzar Futureteq – a start-up on a mission to provide innovative, yet user friendly wearable devices. Producing wearables that take cues from the tech and fashion worlds respectively, and amalgamating them to create tech-friendly, fashion-forward products of desire is the start-up’s mantra.)