Wearable data goes beyond the surface

Consumer devices are getting smaller, faster, and more seamless in their user-experience.

From the watch on your wrist, to the wearable biosensor, or to the ECG machine tracking real-time vitals, these devices are now seamlessly integrated into our lives. It’s why the wearable industry is looking to double its market size to $265.4 million US by 2026.

Wearables provide not only a vast number of benefits but unique insights through data that otherwise wouldn’t have been discovered. They represent a new way to access and leverage insightful information from everyday situations. Combining data about personal health with mixed reality, wearables serve as unique conduits to the data that our lives generate. But the amount of data that they generate has to be stored somewhere, which in turn, has pushed forward drive capacity, to meet those requirements.

Examining three major types of wearables, their capabilities and storage requirements will reveal the ways that data can be channelled in new and exciting ways.

Way more than your average timepiece

Currently, smart watches are the most popular and successful market sector of wearables. These devices collect and report data about a wearer’s daily habits such as step counts, heart rate and hours of sleep, and can even take an electrocardiogram test. But these uses just scratch the surface.

The smart watch space is continuing to innovate, making room for real-time or predictive responses. For example, some users have found that a drop in smart watch health metrics can be a predictor for illness, and research backs up these anecdotal claims. A study from 2020 found that smart watches can detect illnesses, such as the flu, while another found that they could identify Lyme disease. However, it’s not perfect. Identifying COVID-19 or respiratory diseases has proven to be harder, and the watches can’t yet tell you exactly what you’re sick with. But what insights into the body there are, can be a powerful discovery.

These insights are similar to a warning light that flashes in a car. The data collected from these watches is ultimately small and doesn’t reveal too much on its own. Where the potential lies, is within the consistent collection of data over time. The device can combine all these little bits of data over a week or longer — higher body temperatures, elevated heart rate, poor sleep, less physical activity — and provide insights on the overall wellness of the wearer. The consistency and persistence of data collection enables relevant feedback to the user, amplifying the results.

As the amount of data collected by these devices grows, the onboard, internal storage will have to grow with it. Emphasis will need to be on generating storage facilities that have a focus on low latency and high capacity.

The evolution of epidermal technology

Epidermal wearables are becoming a more well-developed sector of the wearable industry, one that is experimenting with specific and targeted medical devices for healthcare applications. While smart watches are collecting general biometric data, these skin level implants are focused on more specific applications, like monitoring for strokes or aiding speech therapies. Due to their slim profile, they are ideal for extended wear, enabling long-term medical attention that could also be conducted remotely.

Outside of the medical environment, these devices are becoming an invaluable tool for professional athletes. Using their focused nature, athletes are taking the data from their workouts and past performances to tailor their practice sessions and improve for next time. Coaches are also tapping into this data to help better manager workloads and maintain game-day fitness across their rosters. If a player didn’t feature in a weekend match, coaches know to ramp up their intensity in training come Monday.

An injured player also has access to details about intensity, balance, speed, and other performance metrics to help them track their recovery. This data can be particularly important in helping players prevent further reinjury as result of overloading or modifying their form.

Stick to skin wearable devices provide hard data to corroborate verbal feedback that athletes receive or give during training. A trainer or coach can then evaluate the athlete’s best performance through metrics other than time. The trainer can see the athlete’s heart rate at its optimum range, and whether their breathing was optimising oxygen intake. These underlying numbers are just as important as outcome when evaluating performance, and wearables open a new window into these metrics. As athletes and clubs look to get every competitive advantage they can, these minute details can be the difference between glory and defeat.

The data storage requirements for these types of devices rely heavily on latency and having instantaneous access to historical data at the edge. Storage solutions that operate at the edge allow for greater flexibility in where data is processed and stored, meaning that the data created within the wearable can transmitted and stored, but can also be accessed or transmitted to other devices for analysis of that data.

A second pair of eyes

Currently, Microsoft and Google have been implementing Hololens 2 and Google Glass in select enterprise settings to enable mixed reality communications and collaboration in ways that were previously inconceivable.

Ultimately, the power of these holographic wearables lies in their ability to capture and visualise data in novel ways. From renderings that design and UX teams can look at together and change in real time, to the ability to toggle between topics in a meeting without having to break concentration, eyewear provides a unique window to the ocean of data that our world floats upon.

The data that can be captured from connected devices such as smart eyeglasses will have a plethora of benefits, including helping managers make real-time decisions to keep their workers safe, and also to improve productivity. In order to facilitate this, low latency and high capacity storage solutions are the backbone that enables the data from these devices to enhance and complement our day-to-day lives.

Data is all around us, but that means nothing if we cannot capture, visualise, and leverage it. Wearables enable us to collate, understand, and act on that information in unprecedented ways. In an era of technology where the volume of data being gathered, transmitted, and analysed is higher than it’s ever been, wearable devices and the data storage infrastructure that underpins them are the ultimate expression of what data can do for not only the economy but for the general public.

About the Author

Davide Villa is Director of Business Development EMEAI at Western Digital. At Western Digital we create data storage solutions that power the technology of today and inspire the innovations of tomorrow.

Featured image: ©Monopoly919