Bracelets, necklaces, watches, shirts, shoes, hats. What can’t be smart and connected? “Wearables” were the buzz at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) I attended last month in Las Vegas. I couldn’t walk across the showroom floor without seeing some version of wearable technology.

As a healthcare professional, I am excited by the possibilities of wearables and the data generated and collected by them. I’m sure the buzz will continue at the upcoming HIMSS 2014 conference in Orlando, which focuses on how technology like wearables can improve healthcare. I’m not alone in my high expectations for wearable technology. ABI Research reports, “…health and fitness wearable computing devices will be a main driver of the 90 million wearable devices that are expected to ship in 2014.”

What kind of wearables?

There are several different types of wearables:

  1. Fitness tracking devices that monitor your activity – steps, distance, sleep, calories burned, etc. Devices that are worn on your wrist or clipped to your pants fall into this category. This data is very helpful to the user and has the potential to be linked to healthcare providers or viewed in conjunction with other fitness apps via the AT&T mHealth Platform.
  2. Devices that can send vital information, such as weight, blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose readings back to healthcare professionals. This is really the next stage of remote patient monitoring – enabling the monitoring devices to be worn.
  3. Emergency response and location tracking devices. These devices can provide families peace of mind for loved ones, whether they are seniors, children, or or anyone with a chronic condition. AT&T EverThere® is a great example of this. It’s a mobile personal emergency response device that is worn around the neck and is monitored by a call center, 24 x7.  EverThere® also provides GPS location to the call center and the user can speak with the call center team through the device.
  4. Embedded devices. There is talk about taking wearables to another level by implanting sensors inside a patient’s body. These devices could collect information about what is going on inside their body and give healthcare professionals more insight into the patient’s overall health.
Wearables and the IoT

Wearables, no matter how they are a worn, generally fall into the category of connected devices that are part of a movement referred to as “The Internet of Things” (IoT) or Machine to Machine (M2M) communications. The same technology that allows a vending machine to tell its owner it needs refilling can allow an M2M equipped medical device to instantly transmit important data to care providers.  Most wearables wirelessly connect to a smartphone or use Wi-Fi to transmit a person’s health data back to a system where it can be reviewed, analyzed, and put to good use. Some devices, like AT&T EverThere®, have embedded cellular and GPS capability as well.

How does AT&T help power the IoT and healthcare organizations?

  • First, a wireless connection needs to be integrated with the asset or device in order to collect data from it.
  • Then, the proper software and services must be used to allow companies to remotely monitor, diagnose, and find solutions.
  • Finally, innovative applications can be developed for M2M applications.

More and more healthcare devices will use M2M because of its ease of deployment and use — and M2M and the IoT offer freedom of being untethered. I look forward to connected wearable health and fitness devices wirelessly enabling a level of insight that will revolutionize healthcare as we know it.

What are your thoughts and hopes for the IoT, connected devices, and the healthcare industry of the future?
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