You’ve probably seen smartphone apps and wristbands that track calories, steps, and workouts. Essentially, you have a very tiny personal trainer on your wrist. It tells you when you need to get up and move, when it’s time to eat, and how hard and how often you need to be working out. It does all the thinking for you.
What you might not know is the invention of these items could just launch our healthcare system into the next millennium. Are we already halfway towards an automated diagnosis and treatment system? First, let’s take a look at what trackers are capable of right now.
The most advanced trackers of today are able to do everything we talked about above and a little bit more. Some devices take your heartbeat, track your sleeping patterns, and the amount of water you consume on a daily basis. Now, if we break down the functionality of these trackers, it’s actually quite simple technology that makes them work.
A good portion of the functions are completely reliant on the information that you input into your device. Things like hydration tracking, calorie intake, and pounds lost are only accurate if the user assures it is correct. So, in that instance, the tracker is surprisingly more dependent on us than we are of it. Sure, it will track your patterns and show you graphs over time, but none of that would be available if we weren’t there to submit the data.
However, there are other aspects of trackers that do have a bit more technology behind them. The step tracker and sleep tracker for example are based completely on your movements. If the tracker sits still for an hour, the tracker knows that you are asleep. If the tracker is moves back and forth quickly for 10 minutes or more, it can safely assume that you’re probably running or briskly walking.
When it comes down to it, these trackers aren’t exactly the space age tech that they may seem. The devices do a great job of tracking numbers, movements, and maybe your heart rate, but how does that translate to the future of health?
The Future of Healthcare
Although fitness trackers of today aren’t equipped with incredibly powerful technology, that doesn’t mean that it can’t transform into something much more pertinent down the line.
Handheld heart rate monitors are incredibly important to the future of our healthcare system. A portable device that measures your heart rate could be the first step towards tipping off emergency services of a serious issue like a heart attack or stroke.
In addition, healthcare professionals say that we aren’t too far from transmitting all of your tracked information directly to a physician. This could mean that your symptoms, along with your tracked diet, weight, and exercise habits will be sent directly from your device to your doctor. Once the physician has all of this information, they may be able to quickly diagnose an issue and possibly even prescribe medication without you ever having to make an appointment.
The Future of Trackers
Companies are already starting to produce more advanced trackers that can detect many more variants in a person’s routine. For example, Under Armour is working on a running shoe with a chip inside that can help the user track their running speed and possibly help correct imperfections in their stride so as to not cause injury.
Another company, Hexoskin, is working on a shirt that can detect heart rate and activity intensity but also breathing patterns. Needles to say, tracking breathing patterns could help doctors get a head start on health problems like asthma and allergies or even things like sleep apnea. This type of tech could also immediately send for help if a person stops breathing.
Panasonic is working on a revolutionary tracker as well – this one can monitor your heart rate just by looking at you. The device can see the smallest of movements, like the pulsating of your veins. It also factors in the flushness of the skin and it’s reflectance under light in order to determine the most accurate heart rate possible. This device can tell if a person exercises or not simply by looking at the size of the veins and the frequency in which blood pumps through them. This could be the start of much more powerful scanners, like CT scans, MRI scans, and ultrasounds.
Fitness trackers are undoubtedly a step in the right direction towards automated healthcare for all. It’s likely that we are much closer to some ground-breaking discoveries than you might think. Imagine a world where tracking, diagnosis, and a cure all stem from a tiny device hidden in your clothing or better yet, a chip the size of one cell in your body.
Trisha is a writer from Boise, ID. She is a dedicated vegan and promotes an all-around healthy lifestyle. You can find her on twitter @thatdangvegan or check out her blog thatdangvegan.com