Digital Shroud
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Digital Shroud

When Doctor Meets IT👩🏽‍⚕️

The impact of technology in the healthcare field has been extraordinary, let’s look more into one of the most innovative mainstream, lifestyle focused technologies — the smartwatch

The Smart Behind The Smartwatch

Smart watches are portable devices that are designed to be worn on your wrist with a touchscreen. Around 2013, when Pebble, the first start-up and company in general released the first smartwatch, silicon miniaturization advancement came into play and then opened up the doors to bigger manufacturers to create more advanced smartwatches with more sensors and trackers, such as ones with more extreme purposes.

There are many different types of smart watches, such as the most popular and widely known products, the Apple Watch and FitBit, along with other watches such as Garmin’s Descent Mk1 watch used for diving activities and Garmin’s D2 Delta PX watch designed for flying purposes. A lot of smartwatches display notifications, whether it’s a text message or fall-detection, apps dedicated to different purposes, such as exercise-oriented ones serving the purpose of leading a healthy lifestyle, media management, such as the Apple Watch having the ability to be paired with airpods to allow users to change tracks or volume, vocal recognition, GPS and one of the most shared and essential features, fitness tracking.

Mixing Medicine and Machine

Smartwatches are the newest technologies in the healthcare field as they allow users to track their activity levels with accurate numerical measures as well as the ability to check their steps, sleeping measures, heart rate and other vital signs.

Most people buy the smartwatch because of the fitness tracker and because they want to keep track of their lifestyle to lead a healthy one. Many people struggle to get motivated to stay healthy or they may find it difficult to stick with a healthy routine. Adding change to your routine can be hard but the fitness tracker portions of the smartwatch definitely make it easier for users to track their fitness data.

The fitness tracker portion tracks several significant body measurements and makes it much easier and convenient to check these numbers during or after a workout to know what to work on for yourself. For example, most people have a target heart rate they should reach and glancing at your fitness tracker throughout a workout can help you reach that goal faster and in a more effective way. Seeing the numbers on the watch with just a simple look helps people get motivated to get up and change those numbers to fit their wants and needs so they can reach their goals, such as getting more steps in the day. Some products, such as the AppleWatch, even create scheduled routines for users to follow, such as the customized bedtime routine so users can meet sleep goals. Users get to finally be in control of their lifestyle and health in a very quick and convenient way so they can stay motivated and track their every move to be accountable for their own decisions to add, remove or change parts of their exercise, sleep and daily routines.

Also, many people in the world are affected by, for example, very high or low heart rates or irregular heart rhythms that can be a sign of a serious condition that they may not be aware of. Many of these symptoms go undiagnosed and are not recognized by the individual, who may already be pretty healthy, which is why fitness trackers which track heart rate and more are a good idea to have. The Apple Watch for example sends notifications in the heart rate app about irregularities so individuals can take action and consult professional help.

But what makes a smartwatch so smart though?

Internet of Things technologies are electronic products that connect to a local or internet network to provide users a “smart” styled and more advanced service, whether it’s a smartwatch or smart traffic light. Wearable products are one the most visible consumer internet of things technology. These devices connect people to the internet through direct contact with one’s body and are able to collect physical data through the watch in order to display the information on the screen.

The fitness tracker portion of the smartwatches is a function that draws people to get the smartwatch and is a feature the majority of smartwatch users depend on and use daily. This part of the smartwatch makes the technology unique and stand out from the average mobile device. Most of these products, such as the Fitbit, use an accelerometer to measure the movement which translates into digital measurements. These products also use an algorithm to look out for motions that resemble driving, walking or more which is what makes it very accurate to use. These applications send sensor data from millions of watches through the internet of things cloud to complete the quick processes for users.

The IoT Information Model is a meta-model that structures the key aspects of information being managed in an IoT system. One layer of the model that is a part of the smartwatch is layer 1, Physical Devices and Controllers, due to the fact that sensors are very essential for the functionality of the smartwatch and the fitness feature. Without the sensors, the smartwatch would not be that impressive and would mostly just act as a mobile device. There are many different sensors that make up the smartwatches that make it work the way it does. As I mentioned before, sensor data is passed through the IoT cloud to make it appear numerically and visually on the smartwatch screen. The data the sensors pick up is incredible and it ranges from the accelerometer to detect movement and direction, the altimeter to detect how much you’re climbing, the heart rate sensor to detect heart beats per minute, the SpO2 monitor to measure blood oxygen levels and more.

An Inside Look Into Sensors Of The Watch

Another layer part of the smartwatch is layer 4, Data Accumulation, which is defined as data in motion being converted to data at rest. Data is accumulated on the smartwatch as the data collected during a workout, any activity or even during rest is kept on the smartwatch and stored for users to look at by accessing previous data through the smartwatch or a connected app, which relates to another part of the IoT model. Data is being collected every second but only the significant data points are shown on the screen, such as the time there was a significant drop in heart rate or when a goal of steps was reached instead of every single data point being shown on screen.

IoT Is Cool, But What If…

One of the main problem with smartwatches related to all the connecting components of IoT is data integrity risks relating to healthcare. With IoT, data is always in motion and is always being processed and stored but sometimes, smartwatches may send the collected data to the cloud without any encryption and as a result, hackers can gain access to the device and can control the device and alter the data it collects. This can be very scary for users as the smartwatches can be then used to send false notifications or change the numbers of vital signs that may not only cause individuals distress but also cause health practitioners to take action that may physically harm their patient’s health. Data and privacy concerns arise in almost every technology and with a device that relates to one’s health, it’s a scary thought of that sort of data being stolen or worse, being controlled and showing wrong numbers. Also, in general, inaccurate data may be a problem in itself if hackers are present or not, due to the need of the device being upgraded or other problems with the wristband and sensor issues.

To Trust Or Not To Trust?

A family member of mine wore his Apple Watch to the hospital after being sent to the ER for vital sign scanning. The patient and nurse glanced at the watch with the same look in their face — a look of doubt, did the professional tools really match up to the numbers shown on the small screen? To the nurse’s surprise, it did. They played around with the hospital floor and home technologies and found accuracies throughout. Sure, there may be privacy issues and data concerns, but what piece of technology doesn’t? A simple wearable device that can keep your health in check, before something worse happens, during your current activity and even during your most restful moments is something worth the price because your health is valuable.



Research and reflections on ubiquitous computing by students at Drexel University, covering all things smart, wearable and pervasive. Articles are by students in the class “Intro to Ubiquitous Computing” in the College of Computing & Informatics.

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Mira Patel

Aspiring Designer & Assiduous Student — living life by her very own blueprint