Wearable technology’s search for the Holy Grail (Has it been a Wholly Fail?)
I have been directly involved with wearable technology since 2015. Since that time there have been aspirational goals as to what wearable tech could do and how its advent would change our lives.
From the beginning, wearable tech has been controversial with the core question being, whether or not the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The purpose of this article isn’t to make that determination, but to look back on the predictions and see where we are 5 years later.
Way back in 2016, futurist Kyle Ellicot (co-founder of Wearable World) stated that wearables and what they allow us to do will be the biggest shift since the internet. At least he didn’t say fire or sliced bread. Ellicot stated “It used to be that a very large percentage of people would buy early generation wearable technology, like a heart rate monitor or a step counter, and, within 30 days, that device was in a drawer. But we’ve moved from technology that was kind of all over the place, to technologies that fit your lifestyle. Today, our wearable devices are generating data that serves a purpose back to us. We call these actionable insights. So, your device doesn’t just tell you you’re not sleeping well, it takes that data and tells you to do something with it to change your life. That’s our big change.”
This may have been a change from the earliest devices but it was hardly seismic. Rather than devices being chucked into the drawer after 30 days, they ended up in the drawer after the users' current fad expired. Like the gym membership, most wearable devices are still a passing fancy, despite collecting different types of data and a LOT of it. Up until now, none of this mattered. Analytical software was always going to be the key to positive exploitation of the data and a motive for the analysis would play a vital role. There is no point in gathering data just because you can. People talked about Biometric skin patches for medical purposes, smart shirts with built-in medical monitors for anything from heart rate to blood pressure, and even subcutaneous chips to measure vital signs and act as a conduit to your smart home which would, in turn, connect you to smart cities. All of this data collection is useless without a purpose. Covid-19 has given data collectors and wearable tech devices a purpose. Healthcare informatics will not only be useful in going forward but vital. Vital for day to day access' to public spaces and vital for future pandemic responses. It no longer matters what the wearable looks like or what it’s ancillary function is, be it garment or accessory. The data the device provides will be useful and perhaps mandatory in everyday life.