Unobtrusive Wearable Technology for Health Monitoring

Unobtrusive Wearable Technology for Health Monitoring

James Amor (University of Warwick, UK) and Christopher James (University of Warwick, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8234-4.ch020
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There are a number of situations in the context of health and wellness where it is desirable to monitor a user for a period of time – either for short term assessment or longer term monitoring. It is further desirable, especially for long term monitoring, that the device chosen to do so has a minimal impact on the user. This form of monitoring is unobtrusive monitoring and uses wearable technology to achieve its aims. This chapter presents an overview of unobtrusive monitoring using wearable devices, discusses some common device types and the data that are available and makes some recommendations for factors to consider when choosing or designing a device for unobtrusive monitoring.
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This chapter is concerned with the use of unobtrusive wearable devices for monitoring health. In this section we define what is meant by an unobtrusive wearable and explain why the criterion of unobtrusiveness is important.

What Is An Unobtrusive Wearable?

A wearable device is one that is designed to be worn on the body by the user, with the implicit assumption that it can be removed easily. This is in contrast to devices that would be considered implantable, such as an intravascular glucose sensor and insulin pump proposed by Renard (2002), or otherwise attachable such as tattoo sensors, as used by Rakibet et al.(2014).

An unobtrusive wearable device is one that blends seamlessly with the user’s day-to-day life and does not make its presence unduly known. This can be achieved through small size, careful design or by masquerading as an every-day object.

Unobtrusive wearable devices do not intrude upon the wearer, through either form or function. That is to say, that the device will be small enough and light enough to not be a physical burden, and attractively designed such that the user is not made socially uncomfortable wearing it. This is sometimes achieved, or enhanced, by adding a ‘secondary’ function to the device that the user finds desirable, a watch screen in the case of a wrist wearable for example.

The function of the device will also not intrude upon the user, with the caveat that this is not always possible to achieve depending on the exact use of the device. In general however, the device will not need the user to interact with it overly much and those interactions will be quick and easy for the user to carry out.

For longitudinal monitoring, the concept of unobtrusiveness is extended to include the long term considerations of the user. The device must be easy to put on and take off and comfortable to wear for extended periods. If it designed to be worn through the night it must not interfere with the user’s sleep – devices which do are quickly put aside.

Key Terms in this Chapter

APP: A software program written to be run on either a smart-phone or smart-watch.

Wearable: A characteristic of a device whereby the device is designed to be worn on the body of the user, with the implication that it can be taken off at will. This is in contrast to being implantable or attachable in some other way.

Unobtrusive: A characteristic of (in the context of this chapter) a device whereby the device, including any software, does not intrude unduly into the life of the user. An unobtrusive device will blend into the user’s life to the extent that the user is not aware of it. Alternately the device may be considered unobtrusive if it provides an alternate form and function that causes an unobtrusive acceptance of the device by the user.

Monitoring: A term used in the health context to mean the gathering of physical and/or physiological information about the user over time.

Sensor-Platform: A device that offers several integrated sensors in a (usually) general purpose platform. In contrast to a single-purpose device, a sensor platform will provide several sensors.

Smart-watch: A wrist worn device that provides smart-phone like functionality in a wrist worn form factor. A smart-watch may be a full-fledged smart-phone in its own right, or may be a device designed to be paired with a smart-phone. A smart-watch will typically have an operating system and the capability to run bespoke Apps.

Sensor: A device, or part of a device, that measures and quantifies some observable phenomenon.

Single-Purpose Device: A device that offers one sensor (or generally speaking, one primary sensor) for a specific monitoring purpose. A heart-rate monitor for example provides a primary sensor to monitor heart rate but might also monitor temperature as an extra.

Compliance: A term relating to how much the user uses a device in the way that it is meant to be used in the regime that the user is a part of. Correct usage all the time would be regarded as perfect compliance.

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