Wearable technology

Apps can be linked to wearable technology, such as a Fitbit, Smart watch, etc, to enable readings of pulse, achievements, goals and so on to be stored for later review. Some of these gadgets are very expensive, but can tell you not only how far you have been, but also how much you have travelled vertically too. Even a simple pedometer can give you an incentive to walk or run each day. Many people use the GPS function in their phone to see how far they have walked or run, and several apps incorporate this function in the details they use to create user profiles. Wearable technology can help you to be more motivated in your exercise habits, while understanding better how your body responds to activities. Often the manufacturers of the wearable equipment send encouraging messages to you, congratulating you on your achievements, which have been recorded through your device.

 Because mobile phones are powerful computers, many manufacturers of medical equipment link their products to an app on the phone, which keeps costs of the hardware lower in price. A number of blood glucose monitors store readings, so that patients can understand trends, and reflect on their food and its effect on their health, and these are often associated with a mobile phone app. A new type of patch, the Freestyle Libre, which can be left on for two weeks, has a thin fibre contained in a patch permanently inserted into the skin, which monitors blood glucose, and is scanned by a mobile phone, producing in an app more extensive information about trends in blood glucose, and enabling patients to see more clearly how their lifestyle affects their diabetes, without the need for a pin-prick each time. At present, in most areas, patients have to purchase the patches themselves, if they can afford the £93 per month.

The AliveCor Kardia Mobile is a hand-held device which records a single heart trace when both thumbs are placed on the sensor pads. When an app is downloaded to a mobile phone, the trace can be viewed on the screen. Irregular heart beats can be seen, enabling patients with Atrial Fibrillation to be identified. Some people who have occasional uneven heartbeats may choose to purchase their own AliveCor so that they can record their heart trace when they feel they are having an episode, and so enable a doctor to judge a week or two later what has been happening to them.

Technology is progressing very fast and it is likely that implanted microscopic monitors may soon be more commonly used to record various measurements which at present need more cumbersome machines to detect how your body is functioning. This will lead to more exact, almost instant treatment to control chemical changes, just as at present people following fitness regimes use information from their smartphone or watch to ensure that their heart rate and distance travelled are improved on in a sensible way.

Have a look at the chapter from our handbook for more details about wearable technology: