3 Use Cases for Wearables in 2017

Last year, I posted about training for races (Marathons to 5Ks) and my Garmin wearables along the way.

In 2016, I completed my 7th half marathon and I am currently training for my 2nd full marathon (26.2 miles) on March 19, 2017 - Georgia Marathon. You can view my training on Strava here.

With smartwatches and Fitbit devices, we've come to know wearables as fitness devices, but is that all? Are wearables bringing real-world change?

At the Wireless Technology Forum Wearables panel discussion on February 16, 2017, I learned how athletic trainers, pharmaceuticals, and insurance companies are using wearables in big ways.

1.    Sports teams from professional to high school are using wearables to prevent injuries such as concussions.

2.    Wearables are now used to alert workers when they are improperly lifting heavy items to prevent workplace injuries.

3.    Wearables in clinical trials to track efficacy, creating substantial proof that a drug works (or doesn't work) as intended.

Let's dive a little deeper into each use case.

Wearables for Athletes

Roderick Moore, Jr. Vice President Sports Performance, Catapult Sports reported that sports teams ranging from NFL and NBA to high school implemented wearables to track their athletes during practice and games. 40% of Catapult clients view the data real-time, in addition to recording the stats after each activity.

What is being tracked? In addition to GPS, heart rate, speed that my consumer smart watch tracks, Catapult uses accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers to measure force, direction and tilt.

Purpose: The intention was to reduce injuries (including concussions) while improving player performance.

Challenges: Initially, players were reluctant to wear sensors. Some franchises implemented wearable usage in their collective bargaining agreement.

Benefits for the athletes: Reduce injuries. In some cases, reduce concussions by using data to identify an ill fitting football collar or other improper equipment.

Benefits for the coaches & staff: Increase player performance by resting players when necessary. Objectively review player's abilities based on wearable data of speed and motion. Normalize training. For example some teams found optimal athlete performance by training for 3 minutes, followed by 2 minutes of rest.

Outcome: Teams became "data hungry." These teams are tracking real-time data and hiring data scientists to create a competitive advantage.

Learnings: Not all teams were successful. One coaching staff did not share the data with their athletes and their program proved unsuccessful. Transparency with players and sharing data for the overall good of the program is key to success.

Clinical Drug Trials

Andrew Hooge, Product Owner, Validic explained how a pharmaceutical company utilized wearables to determine efficacy (aka effectiveness) of arthritis medication. Trial participants were measured on movement before and after taking arthritis medication.

Outcome: Patients moved more after taking the arthritis medication than prior to. Data points from wearables helped the pharmaceutical company prove their arthritis medication efficacy.

Workplace Injuries

Dr. Goutam Koley, VP, Modjoul discussed implementing wearables that provided immediate feedback to workers improperly lifting heavy objects on the job.

Challenges: Some workers saw the wearable as an invasion of privacy. The workers were provided the wearables as a way to prevent personal injury. There needed to be acceptance from the workers.

Benefits to the workers: Reduction in on-the-job injuries.

Benefits to the company: Increase in employee productivity, increased attendance rates of employees

Benefits to the insurance company: Decrease in fraudulent workman's comp claims

Outcome: Win/Win/Win situation for workers, management and insurance companies

Learnings: "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Where's the money?

Increased use of wearables is creating more "big data." Now it is time to turn that data into intelligent data by correlating data from other sources. This creates jobs for data scientists.

Who will pay for wearables? According to Dr. Goutam Koley, VP, Modjoul, insurance companies are willing to subsidize the cost of wearables in exchange for the reduction in claims, and more importantly reduction in fraudulent claims.


  • Wearables are headed beyond personal fitness trackers and into corporate and insurance settings.
  • Data Scientists will be in high demand to process all of the data that wearables will generate.
  • For a wearables program to be successful, there must be benefits for all parties involved.
  • Privacy and security is still paramount to protect this data from unauthorized parties and share data with the approved entities.