Is The Wearable Boogeyman Around the Corner?

Muchaneta Kapfunde | @FashNerdEditor

The Wearable boogeyman, does he exist? Well I think that depends on who you are asking. I recently entered into a friendly debate with a FashNerd reader about the health risks involved when it comes to adorning wearables and clothes embedded with technology. After our chat, I decided to put ‘pen to paper’, not so much to preach, but more to continue this rather controversial conversation that seems to court conflicting opinion.

You cannot ignore the palpable excitement that surrounds the advancement of new technology. It is this excitement that has seen the growth of wearables gain momentum. The flip side of all this excitement is the health concerns that have been raised with regards to wearables. Many fear that exposure to the new technology could, especially if its is embedded, in the long run, result in the big C. This is not an unusual concern. With advancement comes risks, which brings up the question, is it all worth it?

jawbone wearables

In the 90’s it was all about the mobile phone. It first started off as whispers, but soon those whispers turned into loud voices that shouted about the risks of using the mobile phone. Health studies stated that we were “frying our brain” every time we held our mobile phone close to our ear. So when we were armed with this information, why did we not throw away our way Nokia? Any sane person would right? Instead like magpies, we  found ourselves drawn to the shiny new mobiles on offer, iPhone anyone? and the risks where quickly put on the back burner. Fast Forward ten or years, we now have new technology that can potentially be embedded into our everyday clothes and such, the old problem has reared its ugly head again. Should we be saying “no” to companies like Apple and Samsung who are encouraging us to buy gadgets that we end up attaching to our bodies all day long?

The Evolution of the Mobile (Nokia)
The Evolution of the Mobile (Nokia)

According to a report from Juniper Research, a U.K-based market research firm, wearable smart device shipments are going to quadruple globally by 2017, reaching 116 million units, compared to an estimated 27 million. So who is going to tell the ol’ faithful Apple fan who has already rushed out to buy his Apple Watch? Surely we cannot tell him that his beloved smartwatch might just be human krytonite? We all know that argument that did not work for the majority of consumers who contrary to the advice given are still pretty much carrying their mobile phones around. Some parents are even continuing to buy them for their pre-teens. So in the case of The New & Hip Mobile vs Potential Health Risks, the majority threw caution to the wind, and decided to embrace the positive rather than the negative. The World Health Organization has publicly stated  that, “To date, no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.”  They added,  “The farther away a device is from one’s head, the less harmful — so texting or surfing the Web is not as dangerous as making calls where the mobile phone is only inches from the brain.”

2014 was the year of the whispers. Many articles where published questioning whether internet-connected smart watches and health monitoring gadgets are responsible for putting wireless technology right into our body, which in turn increases our exposure to radio waves. It was these questions that inevitably led to questions like does wearable tech could pose health risks? Well I believe that anything new, especially anything technology related, can sometimes carry health risks. That is why I strongly stand by the fact that it is the developer/designer’s job to limit those risks to consumers and the Governments role to set the standards that they will need to abide to. On a positive note, it has been proved that most wearables use Bluetooth technology, which emits much lower levels of radio frequency. For those who are not convinced, there are also companies link Qlink,  who have designed and created a line of EMF protection devices by using a unique technology known as Sympathetic Resonance Technology (SRT).

QLink Executive Bracelet
QLink Executive Bracelet

The continued advancement of Fashion Technology, Lifestyle Technology and Wearables in general will wielded more good than bad. There is always room for improvement. I think it is good to question new technology but the line of questioning should not be due to fear. There are more advantages then disadvantages when it comes to technology. For example, the design and creation of a jacket embedded with technology that could assist a diabetic should not be so easily discounted. This could be a jacket that saves a life rather than take it.

If we take a closer look, you will realise that there is currently no definitive research on the health effects of adorning wearables, we can only hypothesize. This means that the debate surrounding EMF (Electric Magnetic Fields) and SAR (Specific Absorption Rate) will continue to create two opposing arguments. In the end, it is our choice that gives us the power to weigh up whether a Fitness Tracker that uses a certain type of technology is better for us in the long run or not. Technology will always be there, that is the future we are headed towards, but it is down to us whether we choose to wear tech or not.


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