Wearable health technology in medical and consumer arenas
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During his keynote speech at an Apple event on September 9, Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled the Apple Watch. With its unique user interface and functionality, many people have already added the device to their Christmas list. But there are already questions about whether this watch and other smartwatches offer enough differentiation from other mobile devices to achieve high levels of adoption among consumers and across healthcare.
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Watches were first introduced as decorative and expressive pieces of jewelry. For some time their sole purpose was as an accessory that displayed the time of day. In recent years, hardware manufacturers have recognized a need to enhance the functionality of digital watches and connect them to mobile devices. Doing this gives consumers quick and easy access to content without their having to pull a mobile device out of their pockets or purses.
Smartwatches also appeal to sports and exercise enthusiasts. Through fitness tracking and GPS sensors, some digital smartwatches can report on distance traveled and the location and heart rate of its owner. Due to these and other features, the interest in these devices is continuing to grow. Providers, patients and consumers are evaluating the capabilities these devices offer and slowly moving toward adopting some of them.
Several features were highlighted during Cook's presentation of the Apple Watch.
- The new Apple Watch can integrate and communicate with iPhone 5, 5S, 5C, 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices.
- It offers an easy magnetic charging station.
- The Apple Watch software development kit will open the door for developers to create apps for the device.
- The watch includes a heart rate monitor.
- It can display audio, video and photos.
- It's built with sensors that offer improved fitness tracking capabilities.
- The device gamifies fitness and exercise by offering badges and rewards when achieving certain goals.
- Apple Watch offers access to some of the common day-to-day functions of phones (caller ID, messaging, emails, digital media and several apps).
- It integrates with Siri to enable speech-to-text as well as voice commands.
It is far too early to tell whether the smartwatch will find its way into healthcare organizations or not, and what role it might play if it does achieve popularity within healthcare. Smartwatch manufacturers are pushing hard to lead in this newly -created market. Only time, and consumer preferences, will tell which devices will survive.
About the author:
Reda Chouffani is vice president of development at Biz Technology Solutions Inc., which provides software design, development and deployment services for the healthcare industry. Let us know what you think about the story; email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact @SearchHealthIT on Twitter.
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