The unexpected benefits of trickle-down wearable tech
Modern technology has to be considered the most valuable weapon we have in our fight against the spread of easily communicable diseases such as COVID-19. With modern population densities and the sheer number of people interacting in society today, the likelihood of the general populace being able to maintain social distancing decreases rapidly after the initial shock wears off and people lose focus on the immediacy of the issue as the numbers dwindle and people are less likely to be directly affected by the pandemic. The use of technology will be able to provide tools for society to strike a balance between merely locking everyone away from each other and managing the response to the spread of a virus. As the technology we develop in the fight against pandemics matures, however, we are going to see benefits in ways we had never envisioned as that tech is applied in new and unique ways. We have already seen the rapid mobilization and repurposing of existing tech to serve as tracking, preventing, and monitoring devices in healthcare while new and innovative ideas are quickly being developed as companies and entire industries devote enormous bandwidth towards solving problems not considered in the “before times” pre-COVID. As much of the focus rightly aims toward advances in alleviating hallway healthcare or protecting frontline workers, as we slowly solve the problems at the tip of the spear, resources committed only to the prevention of the spread in the first place will commence as society learns that in-person interactions we once took for granted have now become obsolete, and we must look to reduce the need for unnecessary contact between people wherever we can. If we look at the place of wearable technology in this new reality, it’s of course not difficult to envision patients—or even people in general—being monitored remotely using wearable devices so that symptoms or vitals can be detected and observed remotely by teams of trained medical professionals to utilize resources more efficiently to preserve our crucial hospital space for the most vulnerable. However, this technology can be repurposed in much less obvious ways to reduce the interaction between people to prevent the spread of viruses—without the people themselves even being monitored. Veterinarians, for example, have been forced to have owners drop their pets off outside clinics as staff take the animals inside to reduce contact, and this process is repeated over and over as pets have to been taken back to the clinic to see if treatment is working or any other follow-up is necessary. Advances in wearable technology can now be applied to animals, however, and that means that veterinarians, like any other doctor, will have the ability to monitor a pet’s vitals and make decisions on effectiveness without having to have owner’s bring the animal back to the clinic for an in-person examination. This same tech can also work for reducing the need for vets to visit farm animals unnecessarily when ill, for monitoring an animal’s pregnancy, or watching recovery from injury. There are over 95 million pet dogs, and almost 100 million cats alone in North America, meaning a seemingly innocuous bit of tech could have an enormous effect on a surprisingly large number of people. So while it may seem an unlikely use of wearable health monitoring technology, this recent dedication of resources towards ‘distance’ health care means that the trickle-down effect is going to benefit in ways we never could have anticipated. And for pet owners, if it means fewer visits to the vet with a stressed-out animal, then those benefits are going to be valuable in more ways than we could have imagined.