The current technology market has become obsessed with mobility, from devices like smart phones to wearable sensors like fitness watches. Included in the mobile mania are sensors responsible for recording and analyzing the wearer’s health. Whether they are collecting data for health care prevention or management, these new sensors can accomplish more than ever before because of their dependability and mobility.
Mobile, or wearable, sensors are not just a trend, they are here to stay. According to an IHS Technology report, the worldwide market will sell near 466 million mobile sensors by 2019. Mobile sensors vary in size and shape. They provide a wide range of uses such as monitoring medication dosage, analyzing heart rate and blood pressure, or reading glucose levels. Although these tasks were simple to perform previously, mobile sensors add another advantage: the consistent, constant monitoring of personal health anywhere, at the leisure of the user.
The ability to ceaselessly monitor and process vital health information is an unprecedented step forward in aiding health treatment, prevention, and cost containment. Wearable sensors are capable of reading information around the clock, plus capturing comprehensive data that may be used to prevent a health issue or manage an existing one. Care at such a personal level results in less emergencies and trips to the hospital, which leads to decreased health care costs.
Mobile sensors function simply by using advanced technology to electronically track and save a person’s ‘vitals.’ The data is organized and formatted to be easily read by most people and health care professionals. These wearable mobile devices also offer suggestions and directions on how to address health situations.
Certain implementations involving the mobile monitoring of personal health information have been very successful, helping improve personal quality of life as well as offering more information to prevent potential health problems.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 7.4% of American adults had asthma in 2014. While this seems like a low percentage, it accounts for 17.7 million people who often need inhalers to help manage their health. Although inhalers are already small, portable, and easily administered, they have been further improved by including sensors and a smartphone application.
Smart inhalers offer more control over medication use and preventative options that inform the user of potential dangers around them. The smart inhaler links to a smartphone. An app then tracks usage, health patterns, and recognizes worsening symptoms. Furthermore, the app monitors the environment, weather updates, and news that may trigger the user’s asthma, then warns them of the impending dangers.
Heart Rate Monitors
People suffering from dangerous cardiac diseases often need to track their vitals on a continuing basis. Electrocardiogram equipment is still bulky and certainly not built for mobility, but new mobile ECG’s allow people freedom and consistent monitoring.
These smaller, portable machines can be worn comfortably and use small sensors attached to the body to analyze more than just heart rhythm. They also measure breathing, stress, and activity level to provide the best data possible. The data is stored and available to the user. It is also sent instantly to their healthcare providers, who may notice something unusual in faster real time. Thanks to these mobile ECGs, people can simply help themselves by adapting their activity level to maintain the best readings—and the best health.
Using the CDC’s 2014 statistics again, 29.1 million people suffer from some diabetes. Unfortunately, that is nearly 30 million people who have to prick their finger with a needle daily to ascertain their sugar levels. Not only is this system painful and the equipment expensive, but many diabetics don’t test consistently, putting them at greater risk.
Advancements in mobile sensors have created the Continuous Glucose Monitoring System (CGMS), a new method of personal testing available to diabetics. Instead of pricking a finger to measure glucose, a tiny sensor placed under the skin tracks glucose levels. The glucose measurements are more comprehensive than previously available, and are transmitted to a wireless monitor where they may be read by the user or health care professional.
Naturally, mobile health sensor advancements present their own challenges. For example, the CGMS sensor must be properly inserted under the skin and calibrated weekly, which may be inconvenient for people in rural areas or without access to transportation. Furthermore, if the device malfunctions, the diabetic patient must return to their health care center for it to be fixed or replaced.
Other Mobile Health Sensors
There are many more types of mobile health sensors currently being used or in production. Some of these devices help people stay physically fit or passively test to prevent future health issues.
Because of the sedentary nature of a large portion of the population, back therapy devices are growing in popularity. A small belt with sensors attaches to the user’s back where it collects data to transmit to a smartphone app. To improve posture and back strength, the user follows the app through simple exercises and achieves daily goals without feeling they are actually ‘exercising.’
Another example of innovation in smart health technology is the smart bra. The bra contains sensors that track breast tissue for changes and possible signs of breast cancer. Soon enough, mobile health sensors will be incorporated into everyday clothes and athletic wear to help people easily prevent or manage health issues. Technology is becoming smaller, more durable, and cost effective through research, which helps people live happier, more comfortable, and healthier lives.
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