The technological trend of body monitoring comes with concerns

LAS VEGAS (AFP) – A sparkling ring on display at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), but it’s not a simple gem – it’s filled with sensors that can sense body temperature, respiration and more.

Startups attending the annual Las Vegas Gadget Extravaganza have touted tech accessories designed to be attractive on the outside while scrutinizing what goes on inside wearers.

“We want to democratize personal health,” said Amaury Kosman, founder of the French startup that created the Circular Ring.

While this goal was shared by a range of exhibitors, some experts feared that a tendency to constantly follow footsteps, time spent sitting, heart rate, etc., could lead to risks of stress and addiction. .

The circular ring provides the wearer with a daily “energy score” based on the intensity of their activity, taking into account heart rate, body temperature, blood oxygen levels and other data, according to Kosman.

“At night it continues, we track the phases of sleep, how long it takes you to fall asleep, if you are aligned with your circadian rhythm etc,” he said of the ring, which will cost less than 300 euros (340 USD) when it hits the market later this year.

The Mudra Wearable Devices Ltd. strip detects electrical signals sent from the brain to the fingers to interact with devices such as the Apple Watch without having to touch them. PHOTO: AFP

“And in the morning, it vibrates to wake you up at the right time.”

A mobile app synchronized with the ring is designed to make personalized lifestyle recommendations for improving health based on the data collected, according to the founder.

Demand for body-tracking wearables is strong: CES organizers predict over $ 14 billion will be spent this year in a category that includes sports tech, health monitoring devices, activity trackers fitness, connected exercise equipment and smartwatches.

This figure is more than double what was spent in the category in 2018.

Growth has been driven by smartwatches such as those made by powerhouses Apple and Samsung, as well as internet-related sports equipment – which exploded during the pandemic – and personal tracking devices.

Companies are also struggling to meet a need for instruments that deliver reliable data amid a pandemic trend in remote healthcare.

Swiss Biospectal uses smartphone cameras to measure blood pressure when a finger is placed on a lens.

The French Quantiq is developing algorithms that calculate heart rate, respiratory rate and blood pressure from “selfies”.

At the same time, the Japanese start-up Quantum Operation has designed a prototype bracelet that continuously measures the level of glucose in the blood. Diabetic patients would be spared the needles for frequent blood sugar testing.

Connected bodily objects can provide valuable health data, but some fear that a trend towards “quantified self” blurs the line between wellness and stressful obsession.

The South Korean company Olive Healthcare presented a “Bello” infrared scanner which analyzes stomach fat and suggests how to lose it, as well as a “Fitto” device which assesses muscle mass and ways to increase it.

Society must determine whether these types of tools solve problems or “create new addictions,” said German political scientist Nils-Eyk Zimmermann.

One danger is that the “digital self” generated by such technology does not correspond to reality, explained Zimmermann, who blogs on the subject.

He also saw the danger in “gaming” features, such as rewards and peer competition that put pressure on users who may not be healthy.