Oh yes, it’s 2021, and everyone knows about activity trackers & health monitors that come in the form of wearable devices like a watch or a clip on the belt. But have you ever wondered what they’re made of? Or what allows them to gauge, monitor, calculate, and provide you with such complex data in the simplest possible terms?
Essential hardware that usually comprises the physical device’s body, a microphone, a speaker, a display screen, battery, strap, etc., wearable activity & health monitoring devices contain specialized sensors to help observe, record and organize different forms of data. Such devices record and send all the relevant data to the particular integrated wellness application for easy viewing and understanding through the sensors.
The devices are nothing without these sensors: the magic ingredients within these technologically advanced props to help you with your health & well-being. Most activity & health devices come with anywhere between 10-25 different sensors – each serving another function and purpose.
Over and above these components, the devices also contain the latest & most up-to-date software – which acts as the oil in the fire – to keep the device fully functional and to work efficiently.
What Is Sensor Technology?
Sensors are technologically created and operated micro or mini-instruments that can detect, gauge, & record a wide range of data & information. It does so by analysing different properties, which may be physical, chemical, or biological.
Sensors are the instruments that can measure different levels of specific properties existent within what it is used for. Sensors are designed to collect all necessary related data and provide it in the form of easily viewable data either on wearable devices or through an integrated mobile wellness application.
Through sensor technology, people can receive real-time detection, monitoring, & readings of whatever it is they’re trying to observe. We can gauge a lot of vital data & information of our activity performances and health indicators like Blood Pressure, Heart Rate Variability, Hydration levels, sleep quality & time, and many more through sensor technology
Most Commonly Used Health Sensors
These are the most commonly used sensors in wearable technology –
1) 3-Axis Accelerometer
A multi-purpose sensor to track various data related to different types of movements and direction of activities. It can track gravity, forward & backward movements, (sudden) changes in motion or speed of the body, and more.
2) Ambient Light Sensor
It helps in adjusting the screen brightness of the device. Think regulator for a fan or light.
This sensor can track all types of changes related to altitude. It can record ascents and descents, climbing or descending stairs, slopes, and more.
4) (Optical) Heart Rate Sensor
This sensor is responsible for calculating a person’s heartbeats per minute (BPM). It does so by applying light onto the wrist where the pulse is found, and blood is continuously flowing.
5) SpO2 Monitoring Sensor
A commonly used sensor to measure overall oxygen levels in the blood. It does so through infrared technology, which involves detecting the exact colour or shade of blood. A darker colour indicates a lower level of oxygen and vice versa.
6) Bioimpedance Sensor
A multi-purpose sensor that allows the monitoring of a variety of functions related to a person’s health. This sensor uses a mild discharge of electricity through the battery’s charge against the skin to gauge resistance levels. A Bioimpedance Sensor can measure data related to the heart rate, respiratory rate, levels of sleep, hydration levels, levels of activity or rest, and more.
7) ECG Sensor
A relatively new addition to the family of sensors in wearable technology. As the name suggests, the ECG (Electrocardiography) sensor is responsible for calculating the levels of underlying electrical charge that is discharged along with every heartbeat. It does so with the help of an electrode(s) in the device.
Can any activity or health monitoring and tracking device be complete without a GPS (Global Positioning System)? A GPS provides support with map-related functions like determining a person’s location, areas of activity, distance covered during activities, and many more.
9) Gyroscopes or Angular Rate/Velocity Sensors
This sensor is related to motions and velocities. Gyroscopes are used as stabilizers so that comprehensive data related to movements and motions may be maintained and not disrupted. In conjunction with other related sensors, gyroscopes can differentiate between activities like running and spot-jogging.
10) Electrodermal Activity Sensor
An EDA or Electrodermal Activity sensor is a multi-purpose sensor measuring various indicators like the heart rate, body or skin temperature, ECG, presence of stress, and more. It does so through gauging changing electrical levels within the sweat.
11) Body or Skin Temperature Sensor
This sensor fulfils the purpose of a thermometer. Modern versions can also play a role in detecting the onset of a menstrual phase in women. It does so by detecting the change in the body’s temperature or skin, which could signify a fever or the beginning of another illness.
12) Gesture & Motion Sensor
Gesture & Motion sensors add the fun component of using wearable activity & health technology. Think of the Nintendo Wii or the other video games that you see people actively participating in. These sensors are intelligent and capable of using a person’s particular gestures to discharge certain functions.
The Future for Sensor Technology Is Bright!
Here are some new and highly anticipated innovations in sensor technology for the future –
1) Air Quality, Pollution, & Toxicity Sensors
Although most technology related to measuring such metrics are usually bigger, there is already a lot of work being done to integrate it into wearable technology. Apple has already applied for a patent for their iPhones and watches to detect poisonous gases like carbon monoxide.
2) Blood Pressure (BP) Sensor
Blood Pressure is usually calculated by cutting off blood circulation and from the arm, but recent technology (of the future) may incorporate optical monitors to gauge the pressure in blood. Several of the big wearable technology companies have already filed their respective patents.
3) Glucose Levels Sensor
Imagine being able to track your levels of glucose in real-time. This would give patients (especially those who have diabetes) a lot more control and time to remedy issues related to an increase or decrease in glucose in the body. A lot of big brands are already laying down the foundation for this.
4) Sweat Gauging Sensor
Although there are quite a few ways of measuring the overall composition of sweat, similar technology in wearable technology would undoubtedly boost the product. Sweat measuring sensors can measure cortisol levels (related to anxiety & stress levels), electrolyte levels (for hydration), blood sugar levels (to track diabetes), and a lot more.
5) Biometric Sensor
Biometric authenticating sensors are those sensors that can record vital information about different aspects of you and your body that are unique to you. This is done to identify or verify the user of the particular wearable technology. Think fingerprint scanning technology found on most phones today.
Wearable technology in the form of watches is everywhere and is being put to the best possible use by the people who take their overall health & wellness seriously. And, why not? Who wouldn’t want the power to take control of their well-being in literally their own hands?
The future is exceptionally bright and promising as the market for mHealth. Wearable technology is only increasing and continuously innovating to create better, longer-lasting, & more wholesome products for the people.