Catherine Smola, President & CEO | Canadian Underwriter insBlogs
This year’s Consumer Electronic Show (CES) – the definitive trade show of new and emerging consumer technologies held in Las Vegas each January – was, if nothing else, a confirmation of what we already suspected. Drones, driverless cars and the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to be areas of intense research and development. The buzz for 2015, however, is almost assuredly set to be a maturing field known as “wearables.”
Wearable technology isn’t exactly new. Some applications of it are already in common use, such as Bluetooth headsets for cell phones and fitness-tracking bracelets. In fact, I myself hardly go anywhere without my Nike FuelBand, a simple bracelet that tracks physical activity. Even smart watches have been available in one form or another since 1982 – though the upcoming Apple Watch will surely be the most advanced one to date when it launches this year.
Now you see it…
One major obstacle to wearable tech truly hitting the mainstream has been size – between batteries, circuits and other hardware, products were often bulky or inconvenient. However, with improved miniaturization many of 2015’s up-and-coming devices can effectively disappear.
AmpStrip is one such example. A logical extension of step-counting wristbands, the AmpStrip is a tiny fitness monitor that sticks to the user’s torso for a week at a time, providing 24/7 biometric feedback. The data gathered by such a convenient device could be invaluable for professional athletes
There are prototype smart shirts too, with sophisticated sensors integrated directly and invisibly into the fabric. Some companies have even partnered with jewelry designers, disguising their sensors behind wedding-ready jewelry by Tory Burch and Swarovski.
Unsurprisingly, industries such as health care and insurance are also interested in wearable technology. With lightweight and unobtrusive sensors incorporated into patients’ clothing, doctors and nurses can monitor patients remotely over long periods of time – improving the results of physical medicine and rehabilitation. Other devices could monitor physiological cues associated with epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and heart failure, and even deliver controlled doses of medicine through the skin and track the response. Everything from breathing to heart rate to glucose levels to sleep could be tracked, improving patient care and information sharing across a medical team.
Health insurance companies are hoping to benefit from the prevalence of wearable technology as well, offering incentive-based wellness programs that use fitness trackers to offer discounts in the same way that telematics devices do for auto policies. Auto insurers are also eyeing wearables, as tech-equipped eyewear could one day record a driver’s perspective of events and assist in claims assessment. Other sensors could even estimate the shock to a person’s body in the event of an accident to support healthcare professionals assess the severity of an injury within moments of it occurring.