People everywhere are getting into wearable technology. Pebble watches, Fitbits, and Apple watches are just the first wave of a new technology that eventually we won’t be able to live without. But can they also change the way we eat? FeedingTheAccelerator’s Heather Jonasson tries to figure out if the health benefits of an Apple watch exceed the health benefits of an actual apple.
I’ve owned a Pebble watch for a few months now. Though my favorite feature is that I can tell time with Dr. Who faces, it really comes in handy for receiving messages and playing my music. It probably does other things, but I’m currently still too distracted figuring out my new iPhone to explore it.
I also have another device designed as an armband that you wear to bed, which monitors your sleep so that you can check if you are getting enough deep sleep or having any sleep problems. That’s useful, but the thing that I think will become essential for the general population having wearable technology will be the medical benefits. Devices are being perfected that can track our blood pressure, blood sugar and heart rate among other important features. In the future, these devices could warn us of impending heart attacks or other medical problems.
One area in which wearable technology is being developed to improve our lives is in food. Researchers at UCLA are developing a necklace that can monitor the intake of food and drink to develop better dietary habits. The device sends information to a smartphone device to record whether one has eaten too much, too little, might be dehydrated, or is missing certain amounts of nutrition.
At the moment, people who are concerned about their health and food intake tend to keep information in food diaries, written or online. This demonstrates great initiative, but is it always accurate? Perhaps you’re at a party, nibbling at the appetizers. You may not realize how much food you are consuming. Also, human nature will occasionally cause us to lie to ourselves. I know that when I’m on vacation, ice cream and drinks don’t count. The same goes for holidays. I don’t need to write down that slice of cake I had at the office. It was Friday so it was an exception.
This is why wearable technology connected with food intake can be such an advantage. The computer doesn’t care what day of the week it is or even if it’s your birthday. By monitoring the nutrients you are consuming, the computer can also find unhealthy ingredients in meals in which you might not have been aware.
Canada based Aero Health has created a wristband to monitor nutrition, sleep, stress and exercise all in one. It uses wavelengths of light to discover metabolites in the bloodstream during and after a meal. It also focuses on the quality on the meal and number of calories consumed.
These devices will make it easier for people to monitor their weight and nutritional intake. Another Canadian company, TellSpec, is working to develop a device that can measure the chemical composition of any food in 20 seconds. The purpose of this is to help people with allergies and other food issues. Does this dish contain egg? Let’s ask the computer.
Other devices in development help with other aspects to nutrition and proper eating. Bite Counter tracks wrist motions to determine how many bites one has taken and can estimate calories. Synch Smartband, marketed toward parents with small children, can store health and allergy information that can be used by babysitters, daycares, etc. (It also contains a locator for children who wander away.)
I know that I would feel safer wearing a band with my health info in case of emergencies. Some people currently wear necklaces or bracelets with this information engraved, but a small wearable computer can carry a much larger range of information.
I have a friend with many allergies who complains that when he asks if a meal at a restaurant contains certain ingredients, the waiters who did not prepare the food often tell him that it is completely safe, which results in him swelling up later after taking the first bite because the meal contains traces of a food to which he is allergic. A TellSpec would be exactly the right item for a person like this to have at all times to avoid unpleasant and unhealthy situations.
With easier ways to monitor our food intake, it will be simpler to make healthier choices such as type of food and amount of consumption. Wearable technology can be an important tool in the fight against obesity and heart disease. I am looking forward to further innovations that will make it easier for me to manage my health, even if it means skipping the office birthday cake.
Heather is an authentic Texas girl, a severe foodie and owner of a Pebble watch, which does not yet help her with her health, but has some really cool watch faces. She is the twitter expert at FeedingThe Accelerator. You can follow her at @FeedAccelerator and @heatheraudrey