Wearable technology and its impacts on healthcare and fashion

By Asia Lie

Wearable technology is a growing sector in the technology industry. With a market size of 115.8 billion USD in 2021, its size is expected to triple by 20281. Wearable technology is extensive and includes a variety of devices, or wearables, worn on or attached to a person2. The industry encompasses products from the well-known FitBit to the latest developments in wearable sensors of the eye, skin, and heart. 

A wearable device typically communicates with a smart device to deliver information about fitness, health, and body habits. A smartwatch today can measure heart rate, detect blood oxygen, measure sleep patterns, sense falls, and even track ovulation cycles3, allowing its users to access medical information on their smartphones instantly. While we have not yet achieved web-surfing contact lenses, wearable technology is more prevalent today than most people expect, and it’s predicted to grow. 

According to some, history’s first form of wearable tech goes back to the spectacles of the 13th century4. Analog inventions such as this evolved to become what most people would now define as wearable technology: the first wearable computer. This innovation, created by MIT researchers in 19614, was invented to help a gambler win big at the casino, marking the beginnings of modern technology entering the wearable industry. 

Currently, a variety of companies make up the world’s “big players” in the wearable technology market. Nike, Adidas, and Fitbit aim to put products on the market focused on monitoring and sports medicine, targeting those invested in the fitness lifestyle. Companies like Sony, Google, Apple, and Samsung are focusing on supplying the user with a practical, everyday device for all lifestyles and activities1. While these products are aimed at the average consumer, many products in development are targeted to specific populations. For example, LUMOBack helps people struggling with their back pain by sensing when they need to correct their posture5. A range of Neofect products include gloves to help patients recovering from stroke or suffering from paralysis regain hand functions6. Wearable technology has the capability to both enhance daily life as well as assist those struggling with certain problems, which makes it a versatile and promising market. 

With the rise of personalized healthcare, we can expect many research efforts focused on wearables which offer a unique solution for monitoring and collecting data on individual patients to conduct treatments at the personal level. Big trends in wearable research point to preventative devices for cardiovascular health, investigating methods of predicting and preventing heart disease and heart attacks7. Assistive devices for conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are also popular targets for the scientific community7

Healthcare is arguably one of the biggest sectors to be impacted by the growth of wearable technology. With more patient data accessible from virtually wherever, doctors and medical professionals will be able to track more trends and conduct more accurate research that may lead to major advancements in the medical world8. The efficiency and accuracy of emergency treatments could improve with quicker access to medical data8,9. As advancements in disease detection arise, health problems can be spotted and treated earlier. With opportunities at every stage of the healthcare process, from prevention to diagnosis to treatment, wearable technology could save lives.

As mentioned before, wearable technology is not new. It is growing, however, in terms of its technical capabilities, which often comes with bulky design. [LA2] If wearable technology is to grow in popularity, it must move to streamlined designs8, which may also affect current fashion trends. This is evident in the popularity of products such as the Apple Watch. With a user-friendly and aesthetic design, the product is now worn by many, prompting new styles fueled by social media. If this can be applied to other products, wearables have the potential to disrupt clothing as we know it. At the start of the 21st century, Levi’s, a world-famous brand known for its denim, developed a jacket made of a network of material to interconnect electronic technology4. As one of the first integrations of wearable technology into clothing for fashion, Levi’s design sparked a new age of smart fashion. Coupled with developments in smart textiles10, the fashion industry could see a rise in brands focused on technology in fashion as well as the creation of specialists at the forefront of fashion engineering. 

With opportunities in various industries, from healthcare to Parisian runways, wearable technology will grow, despite numerous challenges to its development. One of the largest is the impact on privacy. Having a device capable of sharing lifestyle, health, and geographical data can be dangerous. Policies concerning the disbursement and use of patient data are necessary, especially in relation to government and company access. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to many contact-tracing platforms4 to assess who had been impacted by contact with others. Can governments use this information to fine its citizens? Can they build portfolios on who has connections with who? What information can they gain from knowing your location and who you have been in contact with? 

In addition to data security, the devices will also need to be socially accepted. Google Glass, a smart glasses technology made available to the public in 2014, struggled to succeed against these issues8. Now with the COVID-19 pandemic and general interconnection of life and technology, the blurring of the work-life boundary and “Zoom fatigue” have resulted in a decrease in the desire to integrate more tech into daily life8, with approximately half of young adults in a US survey conducted reporting trying to cut back on technology and 57% of those under 30 feeling fatigued by video calls11[LA3] 

The development of wearable technology enhances life, whether in health, convenience, or leisure. While it faces several challenges in privacy, it is expected to grow significantly in the next decade. So, while the novelty of wearable technology will increase, can it survive in a post-pandemic world looking to limit instant connection at our fingertips?


  1. Fact & Factors. Insights on Global Wearable Technology Market Size & Share to Surpass USD 380.5 Billion by 2028, Exhibit a CAGR of 18.5% – Industry Analysis, Trends, Value, Growth, Opportunities, Segmentation, Outlook & Forecast Report by Facts & Factors [Internet]. GlobeNewswire News Room. 2022. Available from: https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2022/04/13/2421597/0/en/Insights-on-Global-Wearable-Technology-Market-Size-Share-to-Surpass-USD-380-5-Billion-by-2028-Exhibit-a-CAGR-of-18-5-Industry-Analysis-Trends-Value-Growth-Opportunities-Segmentatio.html
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  5. Collier R, Randolph A. Wearable Technologies for Healthcare Innovation. Southern (SAIS) at AIS Electronic Library (AISeL) [Internet]. 2015;18. Available from: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/301373571.pdf
  6.  Neofect. Smart Glove | Neofect [Internet]. http://www.neofect.com. Available from: https://www.neofect.com/us/smart-glove
  7.  Liao Y, Thompson C, Peterson S, Mandrola J, Beg MS. The Future of Wearable Technologies and Remote Monitoring in Health Care. American Society of Clinical Oncology Educational Book [Internet]. 2019 May;39(39):115–21. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8325475/
  8. Sultan N. Reflective thoughts on the potential and challenges of wearable technology for healthcare provision and medical education. International Journal of Information Management [Internet]. 2015 Oct [cited 2019 Dec 8];35(5):521–6. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0268401215000468
  9. Borchers C. Google Glass embraced at Beth Israel Deaconess – The Boston Globe [Internet]. BostonGlobe.com. 2014 [cited 2022 Oct 19]. Available from: https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2014/04/08/beth-israel-use-google-glass-throughout-emergency-room/WhIXcVzkpn7MOCAhKuRJZL/story.html?s_campaign=sm_tw
  10. Zewe A. Smart textiles sense how their users are moving [Internet]. MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 2022. Available from: https://news.mit.edu/2022/smart-textiles-sense-movement-0707
  11. McClain C, Vogels E, Perrin A, Sechopoulos S, Rainie L. The Internet and the Pandemic [Internet]. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. 2021. Available from: https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/09/01/the-internet-and-the-pandemic/

 [LA1]Add more data/sources

 [LA2]To me functionality is not a bulky design so maybe a different word here?

 [LA3]Add stat

@Lie, Asia A great, informative article! Thank you for writing. [LJ4]

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