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Do you know your Fitbit from your Jawbone? Are you breaking through the Google Glass ceiling or twanging your SIM-band already?

Do you know your Fitbit from your Jawbone? Are you breaking through the Google Glass ceiling or twanging your SIM-band already?


Wearable technology devices are out there now
Last Updated: 06-Aug-2014

Do you know your Fitbit from your Jawbone? Are you breaking through the Google Glass ceiling or twanging your SIM-band already?

Wearable technology devices are out there now - from watches that record your pulse and heart rate to smart fabrics that change colour with body temperature. Top athletes routinely wear monitors in their shoes or on their bodies to record physical data that can be downloaded and analysed to hone performance and refine training regimes.

Early adopters might be figures of nerdish fun today, but there's no doubt that the principle of wearable tech devices has potentially huge value - not only for consumers in everyday life but specifically in the healthcare and wellbeing sectors.

Before these devices are widely adopted, there's a need for clever applications to be developed; applications that bring real value and insight, helping people make better health decisions and improving their quality of life and longevity. The key is connectivity. Wearable devices can collect a huge amount of physical data about vital signs, energy consumption, activity and the surrounding environment - but to derive insight from it, it needs to relate to previously collected data or external sources and be processed and analysed centrally or by another more powerful device.

A big inhibitor to take-up is therefore data security. This is highly personal information that people are not comfortable sharing without credible proof that it's kept private.

Some mass market devices - like the Fitbit and Jawbone - use Bluetooth connectivity with processing devices like smartphones, tablets or desktop computers. Health-conscious consumers have enthusiastically embraced their customised diet and fitness stats and recommendations. But Bluetooth is power-hungry, exacerbating the problem of battery life for wearable tech. Charging yet another device, particularly when it's most effective when worn constantly, is a challenge that's not yet been convincingly addressed.

Google Glass presents a mobile and browser-like experience: there's obvious and everyday usefulness in the navigation capability and hands free camera. As a fashion accessory, it leaves something to be desired, but the visual and voice controls and finger touch pad allow a surprisingly sophisticated range of controls, as the device harness the power of the web to relate external data to current location and activities.

Microsoft's "Alice band" has been seen by some media pundits as a potential rival, but the company states that it's specifically aimed at helping blind people to navigate. It's less obtrusive and relies on auditory rather than visual communication to point the way. It's currently undergoing a well-publicised trial in Reading - have you spotted anyone wearing one?

Samsung's SIMband is a platform designed with open access in mind. The company hopes to drive mass adoption by allowing developers to create their own health and wellbeing apps, using its physical capabilities. It's the same model as pioneered by Apple with the App Store and is widely understood - there's no reason why it shouldn't work as well for the SIMband if the technology and approvals are as impressive.

The potential for wearable tech in healthcare and wellbeing is immense, particularly when the current cost, battery life and data security issues are overcome. Drug producers and prescribers could monitor symptoms and receive real time data for in trials and for marketed products; physicians could base treatment programmes on individual responses rather than standardised case studies and averages.

We're already talking to some of our most forward thinking clients about how we can support their business goals and innovation using wearable tech. If you'd like to be in the vanguard too,
get in touch