Wearable contact-tracing devices surge during COVID-19 pandemic, says GlobalData

Wearable technology has been widely used to perform digital contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic. This rise in use cases means that the wearable tech market is expected to increase from nearly $27bn in 2019 to $64bn by 2024, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19%. Wearables developers should focus on improving the accuracy and energy-efficiency of devices, as well as, perhaps most importantly, ensuring the technology protects the privacy of users, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Tina Deng, MSc, Senior Medical Devices Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Privacy-preserving digital contact tracing tools are force-multipliers that will simplify processes involved in re-opening businesses and slow the spread of COVID-19. As many countries have launched contract tracing apps for wearable devices, the main concern centres on privacy. Users’ personal data, including health information and social activities, could be accessed and potentially exploited. Instead of informing a central authority of personal status, wearables should be programmed to create a rotating random identifier and notify others anonymously. Additionally, algorithms to prevent unauthorized third parties from accessing devices should be reinforced.

“Prime examples of wearables being used to combat COVID-19 contact tracing include Nodle, Coalition Network and Avnet’s Nodle M1, which tracks distance and buzzes employees to let them know when they are too close to one another, and artitalia and SensorID’s ‘Close-to-me’, a wearable device that monitors ‘social distancing’ of two or more people in the same room. Both devices offer the advantage of working independently without smartphones, ensuring privacy and security. There are currently very limited data on the performance of the devices, and there remain gaps that could pose challenges to their adoption. For example, they require almost everyone in a community is using the same type of devices to be effective.”

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