What are biometrics and how can they help improve health?
September 19, 2022 by Rich Kurtzman, Brand Communications @ Fathym
In this piece:
- Biometrics means to measure physical and behavioral characteristics
- “Wearables” speaks to smart watches, wristbands, hearing aids, smart clothing and more
- Wearable devices allow users to track a wide range of biometric data, from heart rate to sleep, workouts and calories burned and much more
- The sales of wearables has increased by nearly 33% over the last two years
Wearable fitness trackers are pervasive in our modern world.
Smart watches, fitness bands, smart eyeglasses and smart clothing; their technologies have improved and their acceptance has skyrocketed in recent years.
In our data-obsessed world, we also want to know what’s going on with our bodies. As people continue to become more health conscious, and as the devices improve and become even less expensive, biometrics devices will continue to be more welcomed.
Bio comes from the Greek word “life” and metric means “to measure.”
Therefore, Biometrics is the measurement and statistical analysis of people's unique physical and behavioral characteristics, per Tech Target.
They go on to explain how biometrics are being used today in the security fields; for fingerprint identification, facial and voice recognition, DNA testing and more.
While that’s a valuable piece of the biometrics puzzle, we’re more concerned with how everyone can use biometrics to improve – or at least monitor – their health.
How biometrics can be tracked
Biometrics sensors have become ubiquitous.
In fact, the odds are high you have a sensor which tracks at least some sort of health data.
That’s right, your wireless device (cell phone) tracks your steps from inside your pocket. OK, it’s not as accurate as a wearable sensor, but it’s still something. You can also download apps – sleep tracking, for instance – and manually input data into your phone, too.
But, tracking sleep and steps that way isn’t efficient nor accurate.
That’s why “wearables” have become so popular.
Wearables are electronic devices that can be worn or carried on the body and are divided into categories; smartwatches, wristbands, and even smart clothes and hearables.
Some of the biggest brands in smartwatches – like FitBit and Apple Watch – track all kinds of biometrics.
There’s a way to check if “I got my steps today,” but it doesn’t stop there. You can choose a workout, like an outdoor walk, and the wearable will not only track the distance, but the route by using GPS, the speed as well as your heart rate. Based on that heart rate, they can also guestimate how many calories you burn during that workout.
And some wearables offer many different popular workouts to select when the time comes to pump some iron or play a sport.
Then there’s blood oxygen levels, EKGs, the aforementioned sleep tracking and so on.
When comparing brands, there are many considerations. The cost of the device is the first major factor in deciding which wearable to purchase. After that, features are important to consumers. How well the wearables track data, and what they track.
There’s a new competitor on the scene, too, called Emotibit. They not only track heart rate, speed, steps and all of the normal things, but they can be worn anywhere on the body. Even more impressive, they can also work to track the emotions of the wearer.
(From left to right: A FitBit Versa 2, Emotibit and Apple Watch Series 7.)
We’ll do a full review of Emotibit in the coming weeks, but one of the best parts of their wearables is they are open-source, unlike FitBit and Apple Watch. That means access to your own data, however you’d like to present it, without being forced to use certain third-party apps. Or, simply store your data on any local, private device using an SD card. Fathym can even help you take that data to the cloud. More on that in later blogs.
How biometrics can help improve health
Once you’re tracking the data, you have a starting point. And, depending on your goals, you can use biometrics and the wearable technology together to create a plan on how to reach those goals.
Two of the most important things people can do for their health is get quality sleep and drink enough water.
According to a Harvard, “Numerous studies have found that insufficient sleep increases a person's risk of developing serious medical conditions, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.”
As for water, the CDC explains, “Drinking water can prevent dehydration, a condition that can cause unclear thinking, result in mood change, cause your body to overheat, and lead to constipation and kidney stones.”
Utilizing your wearable to track sleep and water consumption is one of the best ways to improve your health. And, it’s a great starting point because those improvements are free and relatively easy.
Looking to lose weight? Tracking exercise and calories burned will help with that. Some wearables even tell you when you’re in the “fat burn” zone of your heart rate and more.
Trying to add muscle? There are specific apps which work with your wearable for that, too!
Biometrics have already begun to revolutionize our everyday lives.
Wearable fitness trackers are now recording the data and helping to improve the health of nearly 350 million people, and growing.
“According to a recent study from global technology intelligence firm ABI Research, the number of wearables shipped worldwide in 2020 increased to 259.63 million, with sports, fitness, and wellness trackers accounting for 112.15 million and Smartwatches 74.30 million. Now, due to the increasing number of use cases and improved features, the upward trend is predicted to continue. In 2021, 304.69 million wearables shipped globally. In 2022, the wearable market is projected to reach 344.9 million of shipments worldwide, a growth increase of 13.2%.”
The spike in popularity is thanks to improvements in features, battery life and a rising interest in people wanting to monitor their health.
The wearable biometric space will only continue to grow from here as the devices continue to be sleeker, bringing even more features, with longer battery life. And as they become even more ubiquitous, wearables will continue to be accepted for different applications including for displaying a ticket at a concert or sporting event.
Speaking of sports, our Kim Loomis wrote this on Tom Brady and how he's used biometrics to stay on top of his game even in his mid-40s.