For many of us, the word technology does not always invoke images of good health. We think of office workers hunched over a keyboard and mouse, teens glued to smartphones, kids hanging out in darkened basements playing video games, and adults binge-watching a television series in the family room. Surely some of that is accurate, but one of the fastest-growing technology segments in the world is intended to benefit our health.
Now more than ever, the Internet of Things (IoT) devices are helping us stay healthy. Let’s examining some examples of these IoT and IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) device categories.
According to a Pew Research survey released early this year, 1 in 5 Americans uses a smartwatch or fitness tracker. The technology in these devices runs the gamut of power and features. Even the least expensive is useful for tracking your steps throughout the day, estimating calories burned and logging that data in a companion application on your smartphone. Many feature fitness goals, to encourage the wearer to exercise daily, while more expensive models feature GPS to track your distance more accurately. High-end wearables are often equipped with heart rate sensors, an ECG sensor that can indicate whether your heart rhythm shows signs of atrial fibrillation, and microphones to measure sound exposure levels to let you know if you might be in an environment that is damaging your hearing.
Combining smartphone apps and select IoT refrigerators, you can maintain the inventory of your fridge, including the expiration dates, from anywhere, especially at a grocery store. At a glance, you can see if your lettuce is about to expire or if your milk needs to be used up. Other smart refrigerators will push alerts for when the door is left open and will often allow you to adjust the temperature remotely if you’re away from home.
Other benefits can sometimes include recipes based on ingredients that you have available. That’s a nice feature if you struggle with meal plans, especially now that restaurants are closed. Saving money on food waste and energy consumption may not appear to tie in with your health, but when both are made easy, it could lessen some stress during an otherwise stressful time.
In the category of IoMT
According to the CDC, 10.5% of Americans have some form of Diabetes. We all know how important it is to monitor glucose levels to maintain good health with that diagnosis. Technology has provided a better way of life for doing just that. Glucose Monitors are now able to connect to your smartphone via a wireless Bluetooth connection to sync your data, track foods, and other health notes. Smart glucometers give real-time updates on how treatments are working. In some cases, patients can even share their glucose monitor data with a doctor, and it allows parents of childeren with Diabetes to monitor them as well.
Prior to researching this article, I thought smart pills were something of science fiction. It turns out the FDA approved such a drug for treating schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder. The pill contains a sensor, or Ingestible Event Marker (IEM), that, when used with the app, can track when the patient took the pill, their activity level, time spent resting, and patient notes. All of this data is collected to give the doctor a much clearer window into the health of the patient.
Example: Abilify MyCite
Clinical Grade Wearables
Unlike Fitness Wearables at the top of the article, Clinical Grade Wearables are more specialized and are certified and approved for use by the regulatory authority. Also, they are typically used based on a physician’s prescription.
Example: QardioCore; a medical-grade ECG monitor used for recording your heart throughout the day.
Due to social distancing efforts, especially for people over 65, the fear of a fall occurring at home with no one around is made worse. Thankfully there are a lot of fall detection devices that will alert loved ones or even 911 about such an incident. The Apple Watch is one device that can be used, but many dedicated devices can do the job very well. If you’re in the market for one of these devices, be sure to compare features that will fit the wearer best, such as the need to change a battery, recharge a battery, or whether or not it needs a landline or internet connection.
Smart Speakers and Smart Screens
Devices featuring Alexa, Google or Siri from Amazon, Google, and Apple, respectively, will each give you access to hands-free calling to a doctor’s office, your contacts, or even 911. Depending on your healthcare provider, you may also be able to use a smartphone, tablet, or webcam equipped PC for a face-to-face appointment with a nurse or doctor using Microsoft Teams or Skype. It’s becoming more commonplace due to the current pandemic.
We’ve just scratched the surface of IoT devices that are designed to help us live more healthy and safer lives. Concerns about cybersecurity, health data privacy, and the added stress from actually using more technology are valid, so we encourage you to investigate any product or service before embracing any one of them.
As always, if you have any questions related to this article, or if you have an idea for a topic you want us to cover in the next, we’d love to hear from you.