Look around, and you will notice that just about everyone is wearing a step-counting watch or another kind of “wearable” tech. Some capture and display your activity levels (and heart rate), while others conveniently show you who’s calling or texting. Many even let you even take a call on your wrist. (Dick Tracy, eat your heart out.)
But this is just scratching the surface of what’s possible.
New products that fuse health and wellness information together — from hearing aids with GPS to contact lenses that can measure glucose — are popping up in the marketplace. And they're not only helpful for the person who wears them, but they also can be valuable tools for a caregiver.
The International Data Corporation (IDC), which among other things tracks informational technology, predicts global shipments of wearables will nearly double from a forecasted 122.6 million units in 2018 to 190.4 million units in 2021, with growth in emerging markets of prescriptive and diagnostic wearables. And much of what's new or on the horizon are terrific tools for caregivers and those they care for.
The fourth-generation of the Apple Watch (Series 4; from $399) includes all the features found in its predecessor — such as support for Siri, Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant and a waterproof exercise companion, But for the first time, there’s an integrated ECG (electrocardiogram) to detect a dangerously high or low heart rate, or irregular heart rhythm.
The updated watch also detects falls, and its Emergency SOS feature means it can call 911, notify your emergency contacts, send your current location (via GPS) and display your medical ID info on its screen for emergency responders.
Other watches can also help you communicate and monitor loved ones. NurtureWatch ($155 prepaid or $23 per month plus $70 for the watch) lets a caregiver track a consented loved one’s whereabouts through GPS technology, plus it can make two-way calls, monitor heart rate and detect falls like the Apple Watch does. The watch also has a red SOS distress button in the event of an emergency. The interface and battery performance isn't as impressive as Apple Watch, but it's more affordable, the screen is larger, and it works with both iPhone and Android smartphones.
Similarly, the more affordable LocateWatch (above) ($16 per month for a minimum of 12 months) uses GPS for consensual tracking of loved ones, along with integrated cellular for making calls and built-in Wi-Fi to access the internet when in a wireless network. There is no heart rate monitor or fall detection, but there is an SOS button to call a predetermined contact (such as a caregiver or family member) or if the watch wearer leaves a specified area. For an extra $10 per month, the SOS button can also call a 24/7 emergency monitoring center.
Those who don’t want to wear a watch might opt for the LocateTracker ($13 per month for a minimum of 12 months), which is a small and trackable device to keep in a pocket or purse, attached to a keychain or worn as a pendant.
Smart rings and belts
While wrist devices might be the most popular examples of a wearable, there are a few other emerging categories, including smart glasses, wearable body cameras and high-tech clothing, to name a few. And you can now add “smart rings” to that list.