Do Not Take Your Wearable Data Very Seriously

These devices are not yet accurate, which is why they only

You have bought a smartwatch or a smartband and, thanks to the device, you are steadfast in sports activities. Measurements of heartbeat, measured steps, and distances covered motivate you to maintain a daily exercise routine. That’s great! You just have to be careful not to take data from these devices too seriously.

The proposal varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, from model to model, but as a rule, wearables are being developed to monitor various aspects of their health and to associate that data with parameters of physical activity.

Imagine, for example, a person running every day. At first she made short courses, one or two kilometers long. Then it increased to three, five, and finally ten kilometers. This person also noticed that in the early days, his heart rate was approximately 120 beats per minute in races; Today this average is 90 beats per minute according to Garmin smartwatch indexed on HISTORYAAH.

This happened because that person’s physical condition improved. This is the kind of conclusion that can be given by a sports app or by a wearable system. But what if this average of 90 beats does not correspond to reality, although the individual has even improved the conditioning?

Sensors are not accurate yet

It is not a remote possibility. Manufacturers have been struggling to create devices with precise sensors, but this is a challenge that is far from over: precision requires the latest technology and it is still difficult to offer such sophistication without affecting the cost-effectiveness of the product. That is why there are few devices that stand out in factor accuracy.

One case that depicts this scenario is that of Quanttus. Created in 2012, startup has spent millions of dollars of venture capital funds trying to develop a smart bracelet that can measure, among other parameters, the user’s blood pressure. But, as the MIT Technology Review reports, the company has failed miserably in this mission.

Looking more carefully, we realize that the proposal is not bad: Quanttus’s intention is to provide a device that allows anyone to monitor blood pressure steadily and accurately.This is good not only to alert individuals already diagnosed with hypertension and who therefore need to control the problem, but also to serve as a prevention tool to others.

To prevent false alarms or even fail to report a pressure rise, the device must be quite accurate. To do so, the startup’s idea is to use a sensor that throws light on the skin and selectively reabsorbs it to measure the volume changes in the blood vessels with each heart beat. But so far, none of this has worked.

Quanttus just released the Q Heart app, which does not do much

In the face of the company’s silence, the MIT Technology Review turned to a former Quanttus employee who, on condition of anonymity, revealed that the project’s development has been much longer than expected, not surprising: anatomical features, Variations in movement and environmental conditions are among the many factors that can interfere with the accuracy of measurements.

These same factors also interfere with the accuracy of devices already on the market. At the end of the day, the number of steps your smartwatch says you’ve given and your average heart rate are nothing more than estimates.

Wearables data has little or no use for physicians

You should then use this data to be aware of your performance in sports, not treat them as absolute truth. Of course, this information may give clues to a possible problem: if your smartwatch indicates that you have more than 100 heartbeats per minute while you are at rest, this may be an indication of some type of chronic arrhythmia settling down.

Or not. The smartwatch may simply have a measurement failure. But, of course, you’ll see the doctor, and the doctor will investigate the problem. Well, at least that’s the behavior indicated.

But it’s no use bringing the reports that your physical activity app generated to your office.The doctor will evaluate you and, if you find it necessary, will ask for additional tests to analyze your heart rate, pressure and other aspects.

It may seem obvious, but, at least in the United States, doctors are noticing a growing number of patients coming into the office carrying spreadsheets and reports generated by monitoring tools. “They come up here with these huge Excel spreadsheets, with all that information I have no idea how to use,” says oncologist Andrew Trister in an interview with the MIT Technology Review last year.

He does not lie. Doctors know that smartwatches, smartbands, and the like are not appropriate for medical evaluations. The problem here is not only the lack of precision of these devices: the sensors may even work well, but they do not meet the criteria and protocols that medical entities establish to validate clinical equipment and tests.

Despite this, doctors do not condemn the use of wearables, on the contrary. They recognize that these devices are even making a lot of people practice regular physical activity. That is the main purpose of these inventions.

If that’s your case, congratulations! Just do not get too attached to the data. Shortly after the launch of Apple Watch, some users complained that the watch does not measure heart rate correctly during certain exercises, but Apple itself states in its help pages that movements of certain activities (such as boxing) can generate not-so-accurate measurements.

Will the wearables be very accurate one day? If it is to bet, I play all my chips in the ‘yes’.But this scenario is also not without problems: there is the risk, for example, of people becoming obsessed with health monitoring to the point of developing anxiety or even paranoia. So regardless of the degree of sophistication of technology, it is prudent to never neglect common sense.

Healthy, sharp and willing

Technology does not only help us to exercise. Apps and gadgets can also help us with our eating habits. That was the subject of Tecnocast 035. Press play below and check out

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