November 4th, 2019
Wearable Tech: No Longer Futuristic
We are getting very close to the age of the Jetsons and Star Trek. I loved both shows with all the neat sort of tech stuff. I am not sure it was called ‘tech’ at that time but futuristic it certainly was. Many people wear watches to help track fitness. What is so interesting is how technology has evolved into stuff you can wear that will let you know that something very serious may be happening regarding your health. Early detection of anything is key to having a more promising outcome. We are familiar with heart monitors and Pulse Ox devices that a medical professional will have you wear at home but here is some other ‘real tech’ that is worth mentioning.
The Apple Smart Watch works with smartphones and can perform ECGs to alert you that you are having a heart arrhythmia so you can consult a medical professional. It will let you know if there is a normal sinus rhythm, if you are experiencing A-fib, or it will show an inconclusive reading. Cardiac Watch and Fitbit offer heart rate monitoring to go along with your fitness workouts. There is another device that will only perform ECG capabilities. Evidently, this device can be triggered by placing two fingers on the device or placing the device on the left ankle or thigh. The readout then can be shared with your doctor for a professional opinion and further testing.
Glucose monitoring has long been a task for many with Diabetes. You may have seen devices that are inserted in the arm (for those 18 years of age or older) with a sensor and probe that can be scanned using a cell phone that will continuously monitor blood glucose levels. There are devices inserted into the abdomen (as young as 2 years old) and, when synced with a smart phone or watch, will show continuous results. These methods of testing glucose are more on par in keeping better control of insulin intake even during those times that someone is unable to monitor levels, such as when they are sleeping.
Parkinsons is life-altering but there are devices that will help to manage symptoms and track the progression of the disease. A watch-like device collects data from 6 to 10 days prior to an appointment with a physician. The data is then sent to the doctor who is able to have a much clearer understanding of the patient’s symptoms during their usual routine and not just a one-off during an office visit. And, interestingly, a watch has been developed that helps Parkinsons patients function better. Somehow this device creates “white noise” in the form of vibrations that lessens the brains ability to feel the tremors in return the patient is not fighting the tremors but is able to complete tasks that were usually impossible. That is pretty remarkable.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia, while there is no cure, early detection may be the key to developing treatments. Using tech (such as the smart phone or tablet along with wearable tech) to gather data earlier and forewarn of cognitive changes would be a major step in the right direction.
There are developments for the detection of seizures in patients with Epilepsy. One such device allows family members and caregivers to be notified when a tonic clonic (or grand mal) seizure is happening which in turn allows for a quicker response time to provide aid. In development in Australia is a wearable device that will predict epileptic seizures up to 30 minutes ahead of time in those 6 years of age or older based on studies done in Australia and the U.S. It will be a few years before it is marketed.
Currently there are no devices out there to predict the devastating disease of ALS, however, for the latter stages of this disease known as Locked-In Syndrome (LIS)—the stage where there is no longer communication—a device was developed by an ALS patient that looks like eyeglasses and allows the ALS patient to use eye control to communicate using a mounted camera that keeps track of eye movement. The patient is then able to scroll through an audible menu and blink to choose dialog. Blinking three times will communicate that they are in need of help. Simply amazing.
Mental health is nothing if not complex. The U.K. has certified a device that wears like a hat and works with an app and will produce electrical pulses using electricity instead of medications based on research for the myriad of mental health illnesses. The app being more generic helps to encourage lifestyle changes.
Apple has announced it is launching three different studies using its Apple Watch and iPhone which include a women’s health study, a heart and movement study and a hearing study. These are opt-in, need your own device to participate. Truly revolutionary in the way of gathering data and the potential changes to the approach of treatment.
The types of wearable tech mentioned here is from the AEDSuperstore monthly newsletter. I thought this information was interesting and wanted to pass it along. There is so much more very ‘futuristic-type technology’ being developed or is in the works to talk about but that will be for another blog.
So, as far as the Jetsons (set 100 years in the future ~2062), they predicted such devices as the smart phone and video-chat, along with such things as the treadmill for dogs. That’s so funny. I had no idea there was such a thing. You can buy your dog a treadmill for exercise almost anywhere that exercise equipment is sold. Who knew?!
Star Trek, however, set 300 years in the future, has been closer to what we actually have today. The talking device known as the ‘communicator’ looks darn close to the flip-phone. I was always fascinated with that device when Captain Kirk flipped it open and would turn the knob and talk to the Starship Enterprise. So cool! There are other devices such as the replicator—fast forward to the 3D printer; the holodeck; the virtual-reality meeting room; as well as the universal translator; and do not forget quantum teleportation. Eek! Transporting atoms which is kind of interesting but mixed with a sort of dismal horror at what could go wrong.
So, that brings us to the ‘tricorder.’ The device that Bones used to diagnose—I think humans and non-humans alike and whatever else—for whatever ailments (and/or data) that was making for a good TV episode at the time. However, not wearable tech, surely the tricorder was and is now the epitome of new technology which may not be as far off as you may realize. Something sort of similar has been developed and is being perfected as we speak. Think of it, how far in the near future will it be to have one device to assess for all medical issues known and, who knows, maybe unknown. And surely it is not a stretch to think that one day a tricorder-like device will also be ‘wearable tech’ with no waiting to consult with a doctor, then schedule testing and finally treatment, but immediately know what the problem is with no long wait time to begin treatment. Alas, we are all going to have to stay tuned.