How Wearable Technologies Capture Different Biological Data

Wearable technologies help us gain insights into our health.


As we age, our body decays. The decay reminds us to be health conscious. We listen to our body signals, make adjustments in lifestyle, and follow professional advice to prolong life.

Wearable technologies enhance the above process with the goal to make conscious healthy choices. The hardware collects biofeedback and feeds them to the software. The software displays a health log, examine the information over time with machine learning and gives recommendations to optimize our lifestyle.

Two kinds of wearables in the health industry have emerged over the years. One is for general health purposes. The other is tracking a specific problem. The goal is to gain insights into a problem or new disease categories through analyzing extensive data over a period. The data supplements a patient’s medical record for doctors to see a holistic picture.

The wristband-types such as the Apple Watch and Fitbit serve a general health function. The built-in sensors, pedometer, accelerometer, and gyroscope measures foot travels, body movements, directions and orientations to give a picture of a person’s daily activity.

The hardware records how many steps we take, how long we walk, and how far we run. Some will even nudge us if we sit for too long. The user can also log their exercises, food, and water intake manually.

The technology platform analyzes the data and reports how active we are during the week and if we have met our fitness goal. For the calories counters, the platform crunches the numbers in calories burnt and calories intake.

The platform adds a layer of gamification by comparing results with friends after the user consented to share data, in hopes to motivate each other living healthier.

Some wearables also equipped with sleep tracking using actigraphy. It studies the person’s movement to record activity and inactivity during sleep to further analyze sleep and wake.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the studies could be used to diagnose insomnia, circadian rhythm disorders or excessive sleepiness. The Academy finds actigraphy is a reliable and valid evaluation among healthy adults.

The industry considers polysomnography as the gold standard of sleep assessment. Polysomnography studies the brainwaves, eye movements, muscle activities and heart rate during sleep with machines and the observations take place in a lab.

Actigraphy is sometimes used instead of polysomnography to study sleep disorders due to its accessibility to measure at home and the convenience to record a 24-hour session over a period.

Chest-strap wearables measure heart rates using electrocardiogram (ECG), an electrical sensing technology, to record the heart rhythm. ECG is used to check abnormal heart activities such as detecting the telltale signs of a heart attack.

An upcoming smart sports bra wants to relax her users before she is stressed out.

Vitali measures the early signs of stress by tracking heart rate variability and breathing. The sensors are packed in a removable device that attaches to the bra. It is placed near the heart to strengthen ECG signals receptions and to measure the upper thoracic movement. Those two physiological indicators then determine the stress level.

Once the smart garment detects tensions in the body, it alerts the user to slow down and coaches her to breathe in sync with the heart’s natural rhythm.

In addition, the sensors are armed with an accelerometer and a gyroscope to monitor the position of the spine, according to the company’s Kickstarter project page. The wearable will remind the user to sit up if it detects slouching.

Consumers have benefited from the competition of wearables in the health and wellness space in the last decade with choices. Karthikeyan Natarajan, Global Head of Engineering, IoT & Enterprise Mobility at Tech Mahindra adds, “wearables have changed how we look at health and wellness. Gamified applications that use real-time health and fitness data are promoting a holistic, proactive approach to wellness and fitness.

“Importantly, continuous monitoring of biological parameters like heart rate, oxygen saturation, perspiration rate, and temperature, especially when combined with patient health records, are helping doctors diagnose and treat conditions better. This personalization of care, on the back of remote and continuous monitoring and Data Analytics, will go a long way in improving clinical outcomes and the quality of care”.

After the market consolidation, the remaining dominant players face several challenges. The companies need to confront the issues of data collection privacy, and regulators to form guidelines on data management.