My take on smartwear and wearables
Soon, they'll be everywhere. As of today, smartwear only tracks your everything: steps, burned calories, distances, and so on. Rumors of the iWatch swirled, that it could even measure your blood pressure, heart rate, glucose status and so on. But what does it all mean?
The more I think about it, the more inevitably the conclusion seems. Smartwear will be The Next Big Thing in tech, and it's obvious. Take a minute and make wild guesses what you can do with smartwear that's tracking all of your data simultaneously. It's so exciting when you're a bit creative.
Let's say you're fully equipped with your smartphone and your smartwear (be it a band, watch or a shirt with a flexible LED display, I don't care). What benefits could you have? With the advent of Healthbook on iOS probably coming soon, I brainstormed a bit for myself and this came out.
Automatic notifications for you. Seems awfully obvious, but let's have a look: Assume you have to watch your glucose level, assume you have to be careful about your blood pressure. Wouldn't it be awesome to be constantly up to date about your own health? Instead of testing yourself time and again, probably forgetting or intentionally skipping the process, you'd be monitored without pause, which is very comforting and secure, too.
Your personal trainer. You have a goal, like losing some pounds or getting rid of a few body fat percentages? Smartwear can help out here, too. Combining the data of your workouts, your intake and your pulse it just might work miracles - think calculating the perfect guides how to lose 10 pounds in 4 weeks and so on. Or you're working on your appearance as a whole, why not letting a software suggest what's best for your triceps?
Integration with doctors/hospitals. That'd be a long-term goal, of course, but I like the idea. Instead of having multiple doctors deal with your medical past, eventually coming to different conclusions, your smartwear could double as a medical tool, too. Think of it like a digital memo pad for all your doctors, where they can record their diagnoses plus the argumentation behind it. It would make life so much easier. Speaking of which...
Life-saving in emergencies. An astonishingly high number of humans don't know their blood type, for instance. Having the above mentioned integration with your smartwear, and giving rescue teams/doctors the option of accessing that data, they would know in an instant what blood type would be safe for a transfusion, which ingredients in medicine you're allergic to, and what has been your status just before the emergency/accident. Thinking of that, ...
Interacting with other parts. What about your artificial pacemaker - did it have to intervene in the last days? Is your implanted hip alright? All such things could be monitored by smartwear. Let's assume your pacemaker (highly improbable) is running out of battery, the watch/band/sock can give you a heads-up. The pacemaker saved your butt a few times in the last two days? Time to make an appointment at the hospital. That's not all.
Automatic notifications for others. Having parents or grandparents can be a chore, if they're not able to deal with their lives alone anymore. Instead of giving up your own time and monitoring them 24/7, smartwear could react to the health of the patient. Let's assume the smartwear notices that the patient hasn't moved for the last 10 minutes, but the pulse is normal and the oxygen saturation is okay, too. Let the smartwear vibrate for 2 minutes. If the patient can't stop it by tapping on the smartwear, something bad must have happened. Automatic notification will be sent to the ambulance and to you as well, so that you know something's up.
Making other processes easier. Sometimes, bad things happen like a traffic accident. Even though 9 out of 10 accidents are caused by careless drivers, it's not always like that. Sometimes, crashes happen because of a heart attack, a stroke or whatever you can think of. Proper monitoring of the pulse, blood pressure and some more data could make such work (which is mostly guessing or happens too late) a thing of the past. One look and you know what was the culprit.
This is the result of only me brainstorming for about 20 minutes. Think about what companies like Sony, Samsung or Nike could do if they'd get a whole team on this task for months. I don't know what currently is possible regarding monitoring data, if it's realistic to assume that your blood pressure could be constantly supervised. This is an area of immense interest, if you ask me.
But still, the only company I'm trusting with getting all these things right is Apple. For instance, they sure know to give people proper context instead of just amassing the data. It's small things like setting a route on your Mac and with one click you can send it to your iPhone, for example. I'm thinking they'll pull something like that off with wearables. I'd be not surprised if all of my suggestions above were already included.
Second, there's the thing with security. Of course, your health isn't that much interesting when compared to the security credentials of your bank account, but still. Take Touch ID: Apple hasn't opened up that functionality to third-party-apps yet, whereas competitors like Samsung had that API open since the beginning. Needless to say that some nasty things have happened with Galaxy phones since.
But when I'm trusting anyone with my data, it'll be Apple for sure. They know how to protect privacy, they make some of the most secure OSes in the world, and they don't sell ads with my personal data. (Nothing would beat ads for running shoes, vitamin pills or a pacemaker, right?) I hope Apple gets it right and gets a product out in 2014, so I could give that one a shot. I'm thrilled and ready to throw my money at the screen, just release a product. I'll be getting one.