Tech Savvy: What is Wearable Technology?

by GCFLearnFree.org | Art by Brenda Vienrich

Have you ever heard someone mention wearable technology but weren’t quite sure what that meant? Simply put, it’s a general term for a group of devices—including fitness trackers and smartwatches—that are designed to be worn throughout the day. They can connect with your existing devices, like computers and smartphones, which means they can do a lot of interesting things.

Fitness trackers

Whether you’re training for a marathon or are just trying to be more active, these devices can help you get a better understanding of your daily activity. They can track the number of steps you take, your average heart rate, how long you sleep and more. This data can then be synced with another device, which allows you to see trends and patterns in your activity.

Smartwatches

If you’re not one to look at your phone throughout the day, you can sync it with a smartwatch to see notifications on your wrist at a glance. Most smartwatches rely on a smartphone to function, so if you have an iPhone you’d need an Apple Watch and if you have an Android you’d need a Moto 360 or Samsung Gear device.

Safety wearables

Safety wearables are designed to help you in situations where you feel threatened or in danger. They’re sometimes disguised as jewelry so they can be used in a discreet way without letting a potential attacker know what the user is doing. Most are operated by a button that sends an alert to others, sounds a loud alarm or both.

Pros and cons

With no sign of the popularity of wearable technology slowing down, it’s important to consider their pros and cons. On the plus side, wearables give us the ability to monitor our fitness levels, track our location with GPS and view text messages more quickly. They’re also hands free and portable, eliminating the need to take our devices out of our pockets.

At the same time, wearables tend to have a fairly short battery life. For some, it can be a hassle to remember to regularly remove a wearable to charge it. Some wearables have also been reported to measure data inaccurately on occasion. This can be especially dangerous when measuring something like a heart rate. Additionally, much of the data collected is unencrypted. Because most of these devices are used with wi-fi and Bluetooth connections to transmit data, cybercriminals can get their hands on it pretty easily. This information then becomes big data to be collected and used by companies and governments. Like it or not, this tracked information could be used for marketing or health purposes.

The future of wearables

A number of industries are developing new and innovative types of wearable technology, especially in health care where they’re looking to take a step beyond fitness trackers to create health care trackers. These could be used to monitor things like blood pressure, vital signs or blood sugar levels for diabetics. Even devices like smart hearing aids and glasses that measure vision performance are becoming available to both medical professionals and the general public.

Other devices like pet trackers, smart jewelry, AR/VR headsets and even shopping and security wearables are continuing to grow and gain momentum. There’s a lot of potential for wearable technology at the moment. It’ll be interesting to see where things go from here and how they continue to impact us both individually and as a society.

To learn more, visit gcflearnfree.org/wearables/