On my radar: Take two Disprin and Skype me in the AM

2014-05-25 15:00

We’re heading into the worst of the flu season, and if you’re a germaphobe like me, you’re probably considering going to work wearing a surgical mask.

This is because there’s always one die-hard colleague who thinks they’re earning brownie points by dragging their flu-addled body to work when conventional wisdom points to staying

at home, not spreading the flu virus to even more people and getting the proper rest to allow you to recover faster and return to work sooner.

But if you’re one of the unlucky ones who catches the bug, your next visit to the doctor might just turn out to be a completely new, hi-tech experience: that is, if you’re wearing a piece of tech. Wearable tech is undoubtedly the biggest tech trend of the year.

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, all the big electronics companies showed off their versions and variations. The gadgets themselves, at this stage aimed primarily at the fitness industry, are mostly worn on the wrist as a bracelet.

If you go to gym, you might have seen people sporting a FitBiT: a rubber wristband that helps the wearer track anything from the food they consume throughout the day to the number of glasses of water they drink, and even the amount of calories they burn.

Wearable tech is part of an overarching trend called the “quantified self”: a trend where people have started measuring (somewhat obsessively) every aspect of their lives, just as the FitBit does.

One of the most interesting products to emerge at CES was a bracelet called JUNE, an innovative collaboration between tech company Netatmo, Louis Vuitton and Harry Winston jewellery.

When luxury brands climb on to the tech bandwagon, you know something big is brewing. It signals the beginning of a fashion trajectory for wearable tech.

JUNE is designed not only to look stylish, but to surreptitiously monitor the sun or UV exposure you are getting throughout the day, and then provide skin protection advice for the wearer

via an app that will recommend suitable products like sunglasses, a hat or a specific sunscreen.

It’s clever but still relatively basic when compared with what other tech companies have come up with.

Life Tiles takes the quantified self trend and pushes it even further.

These jewel-like “tiles” would not look out of place in a fashion boutique, but each tile has a different function and they measure anything from your vital signs to your physical activity, your nutritional intake and even environmental indicators like the pollen count in the air.

The idea behind Life Tiles is that each day you would be able to measure a different combination of factors affecting your wellbeing so you would choose a selection of “tiles” depending on what your objective is.

All the tiles interlock like a jewelled mosaic so, depending on what you want measured, your jewellery for the day would change.

Once you’ve settled on a combination, the information the tiles track throughout the day is then processed using a series of algorithms.

This information is then fed to your smartphone, but can also be uploaded into the cloud. This is where it gets interesting.

If you need medical advice, instead of having to make an appointment to see your doctor at his or her consulting room, you would simply give your doctor access to this cloud-based information and have a consultation via webcam.

The doctor would be able to access all your vital signs (and whatever you are measuring on the day) in real time and be able to make a diagnosis; and if you need medication, the prescription would be emailed to your nearest pharmacist.

In a few years’ time, you’ll probably be able to request that a drone deliver the medication – but that’s a topic for another column.

This new concept is called “remote patient monitoring”, and is a trend that is poised to revolutionise the healthcare and medical aid industries.

Already, this method of accessing healthcare is not only cutting the time it takes to make an appointment and see a doctor (initial trials show it takes an average of 20 minutes to book a slot with a doctor in cyberspace), but wearable tech is making people more aware of their bodies, making the shift from remedial healthcare to preventative healthcare more pronounced.

But technology is already moving ahead of this steep curve. Very soon, this type of wearable tech will be embedded into our clothing using nanofibres and nanotechnology.

Scientists are already working on textiles that function the same way Life Tiles do. In the near future, you’ll be able to simply put on an item of clothing that can measure and track your vital signs.

The real benefit would be for patients who need constant monitoring rather than gym bunnies obsessed with their quantified self.

Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. For more trends, visit www.fluxtrends.com

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