Heart rate monitoring, step-counting, sleep tracking: Wearable technologies keep evolving, offering more and more useful applications. Usually worn close to and/or on the surface of the skin, they are equipped with special sensors to detect and analyze information concerning physical signals or ambient data. This allows wearers to get immediate biofeedback.
The number of self-tracking tools (quantified self) and thus the wearable technology market keeps growing – also thanks to the popularity of fitness trackers. With it comes an increased demand for specialized applications and distinct designs including more accurate tracking or a sleeker look - especially given the higher performance of mobile processors and miniaturized sensors. Both are becoming increasingly powerful and facilitate even more accurate and precise results. This comes in handy for tracking distances in sports such as tennis or swimming.
In professional sports, wearables are primarily used to measure energy expenditure and to track movement patterns. Athletes have access to accelerometers, pedometers, and GPS.
Professionals also use a multitude of information systems for reliable long-term monitoring. That’s because wearables can provide important health and general wellness data. The devices record biometric parameters including heart rate (ECG and HRV functionality), brain waves (EEG), and muscle response (EMG).
Personalized prediction of injury risk
Wearables are particularly popular among athletes. They help track individual training goals and provide useful data on health and fitness.
Motion tracking and analysis is especially helpful when it comes to injury prevention. A common injury that affects runners stems from overuse and the technology facilitates early detection. Overuse can be detected and prevented by monitoring changes in motion. Scientists at the Department of Human Movement Science at the University of Hamburg, Germany, study these changes as part of the “Smart Injury Prevention” project.
In a MEDICA.de interview, Dr. Lina Rahlf explains: "The inertial sensor attaches to the runner's waist with a waistband and continuously measures biomechanical running parameters such as stride frequency or ground contact times and detects the athlete’s personal running pattern.” This enables the researchers to identify deviations in the running pattern. The sensors can also measure acceleration and angular velocity of movements. “This data is meant to detect and derive biomechanical parameters such as stride frequency, stride length or ground contact times, “says Rahlf. Detected patterns could indicate an increased risk of injury, which could subsequently be reduced by taking appropriate countermeasures.
Products and exhibitors around wearables
Related exhibitors and products can be found in the database of MEDICA 2021:
Self-learning AI sensor enables personalized tracking
The advantages of gathering health and fitness data are not limited to preventive measures. Real-time data can also provide instant added benefits to the user – in the form of AI-based personalized solutions, for example. Admittedly, the application comes with its own controversy and criticism: users worry about the privacy and security of their personal data. Yet the endless possibilities of smart wearables can be too tempting to resist.
BOSCH overcomes these prejudices and has developed the world's first self-learning AI sensor for wearables and hearables (ear-worn devices). The smart software is embedded in the sensor. It recognizes and immediately adapts to a multitude of repetitive movements. This allows users to teach their devices customized fitness activities - the data is stored locally on the device and cannot be accessed by third parties.
In a MEDICA.de interview, Kaustubh Gandhi from BOSCH Sensortec explains how the AI sensor works: "Once the user starts to some activity, the self-learning AI function inside the sensor tracks the data sensed and generated during user's activity and automatically matches this to previously self-learnt patterns, to identify the type of activity, without any need of manual instruction or intervention." Additional benefits of the sensor: the solution significantly reduces development time, cost, complexity, and power consumption.
The truth is that the applications of wearable technologies keep expanding, which makes them not just a consumer trend. From a medical perspective, the targeted application for injury prevention or health and fitness tracking presents a fascinating field of research - also in terms of how they might affect our future.
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