Benefits and Drawbacks of Location Tracking Features in Wearables

Article By : Charlene Wan

Wearables with location-tracking features offer a range of benefits. But, aside from privacy concerns, the technology still has a few drawbacks.

Location tracking in wearables such as smartwatches, fitness trackers, and smart hats are making major contributions to people’s lives; never more so than during the pandemic of the last couple of years, when our priorities have been almost constantly in flux. Whether by locating personnel or a patient, streamlining event management, or making day-to-day life more comfortable and secure, wearables with location-tracking features offer a range of benefits. But, aside from privacy concerns, the technology still has a few drawbacks.

Here are 5 of the most prominent benefits, weighed against the drawbacks that are opportunities for product developers to improve on.


Beneficial uses of location tracking in wearables

  1. Personnel management. Location tracking in wearables can help track and manage personnel in many ways. For example, miners can be tracked under deep tunnels and alerted if there are any signs of distress. Location tracking can also help simplify contact tracing within the personnel group if a positive case of Covid-19 is identified.
  2. Dementia care. Elderly patients with dementia do not always have access to or require 24/7 care. In these instances, wearables can track their location if they go missing from home or find themselves in any danger and need emergency help. Early detection features can also recognize the problem before it develops and becomes dangerous.
  3. Emergency notifications. As with fitness trackers, wearable technology can capture daily routines and patterns in heart rate, various medical symptoms and flag anything out of the ordinary. For example, hearing aids with fall detection, which respond to the user’s voice commands for assistance. A healthcare professional can take action and quickly send paramedics to the user’s location in the case of seizures, cardiac arrest, or respiratory distress, even if they are not present when it occurs.
  4. Patient freedom. People with mental health conditions and/or disabilities can gain more personal independence if the risks of going out are minimized and monitored. They can gain confidence and partake in more activities while knowing they can be found if a problem arises. Location data can then be sent to specific friends and relatives via mobile apps or privacy-controlled social media platforms.
  5. Event management. The benefits of wearables are not limited to public health. Additionally, they can change how events are managed. For example, at large events, bottlenecks at entry points can be identified and dispersed using a combination of location technology and staff on the ground, and individuals looking for a quieter space can be directed away from the crowd. Smaller venues, such as museums and galleries, can use location tracking to guide viewers around the exhibits as part of a more immersive experience.

Drawbacks of location tracking in wearables

  1. Accuracy. One of the main drawbacks of using wearables to track location at critical times, particularly when patient health and safety are on the line, is the accuracy of the reports. Pinpointing the location of an individual to a specific street or shopping center may not be enough to get an emergency team to them fast enough.
  2. Connection. Many people live in areas where network connection is limited. In these cases, there may be delays in location reports, or the technology may just not be accessible.
  3. Device comfort. As with all technology, wearables started out larger and are getting smaller and more convenient as they evolve, potentially hindering widespread adoption. For athletes, in particular, wearable devices are uncomfortable at best and prone to injuring a player at worst.

The future of location-tracking wearables

Editor’s note: Built on patented Subthreshold Power Optimized Technology (SPOT) platform, Ambiq’s products are claimed to reduce the total system power consumption on the order of nanoamps for battery-powered endpoint devices.

Many people already use location tracking wearables to access personal, medical, and health-centric data. With day-to-day life so saturated with smart devices, the main drawbacks that need to be overcome are those associated within the wearable devices themselves. But these can be resolved through further innovations, such as:

  • Accuracy can be improved through additional AI features and functionality that will help the device pinpoint and update locations to keep them current
  • Connection can be improved through the implementation of technology in areas in dead zones and by increasing access
  • Devices themselves can be made to be more ergonomic, so they are more comfortable and less intrusive for the wearer

Ultimately, location tracking features in wearables are designed to help manage and track personnel, patients, attendees, and more. This feature comes in very handy for personal use, especially locating smart devices that are lost or missing. After use, simply remember to turn the location feature off to maintain privacy.

This article was originally published on EE Times Europe.

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