Just one generation ago, wearable tech sounded like science fiction. Things have changed profoundly since then. Walk down any street and you’ll pass people wearing all kinds of personal technology. One in five Americans now owns a smartwatch or fitness tracker, or the two combined in a medical alert smartwatch. And Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids were once expensive, experimental and hard to find, but this has now mushroomed into a more than two-billion dollar market.
Wearables and hearables are just the tip of the personal technology iceberg. Tech developers large and small are working on the next wave of wearable technology. Some of the hottest areas of development include smart sensors and mobile personal emergency response systems (mPERS). These are gaining traction for both personal and business-related use. Two of the most promising areas for growth are among seniors and companies that have vulnerable employees.
Wearable Tech for Healthier, Safer Seniors
Seniors were some of the earliest adopters of mPERS technology. The well known pendant from Life Alert came out in the late Eighties and continues to serve the market. The earlier iterations of this tech had just one function, connecting the wearer with a monitoring service at the press of a button. However, modern options have gotten much more sophisticated. Features now include emergency alerts, GPS tracking, fall detection, voice-activation and biometrics such as heart rate.
Many seniors are choosing to age in place or with family caregivers. They don’t have the safeguards of round-the-clock monitoring in an assisted living facility. Meanwhile, overstretched caregivers can’t watch their loved one 24 hours a day. The right mPERS device acts as a valuable safety net. It can give the older adult the confidence to stay independent while taking pressure off of caregivers.
Despite these advantages, tech developers need to solve some barriers to use. Cost is a major issue. Insurance companies and Medicaid often don’t cover device purchase or monitoring subscriptions. To persuade insurance companies, developers will need publish solid data on efficacy.
Another major barrier is privacy concerns. Seniors are disproportionately targeted by scammers seeking their personal information. Some hesitate to pick up more sophisticated mPERS devices, worrying that this may be another avenue for hackers to access their information. And technology that monitors their health may be constrained by privacy laws like HIPAA. Tech developers are still working on solving these challenges as they expand into this space.