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The Rise of Consumer Health Wearables: Promises and Barriers

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What can consumer wearables do?

Heart rate can be measured with an oximeter built into a ring [3], muscle activity with an electromyographic sensor embedded into clothing [4], stress with an electodermal sensor incorporated into a wristband [5], and physical activity or sleep patterns via an accelerometer in a watch [6,7]. In addition, a female’s most fertile period can be identified with detailed body temperature tracking [8], while levels of mental attention can be monitored with a small number of non-gelled electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes [9]. Levels of social interaction (also known to affect general well-being) can be monitored using proximity detections to others with Bluetooth- or Wi-Fi-enabled devices [10]. Consumer wearables can deliver personalised, immediate, and goal-oriented feedback based on specific tracking data obtained via sensors and provide long lasting functionality without requiring continual recharging. Their small form factor makes them easier to wear continuously. While smartphones are still required to process the incoming data for most consumer wearables, it is conceivable that in the near future all processing functionality will be self contained.

Fig 1