The Next Move In Wearables: Ingestibles?

Are we going to ingest our technology in the future?


Wearables are now not a new technology, as I type this I can see a fitness tracker on my wrist and a smart watch on the wrist of the person sat opposite me. They are not as ingrained as they may well be in the future, but they are certainly becoming more popular.

One of the biggest gripes that people tend to have with them is that they can get in the way and the fact that you are constantly aware of them means that they are not as effective as you may adapt you actions for them. Most also fail what Sonny Vu, CEO of wearable tech maker Misfit, calls the Turnaround Test. This is that if you were at the end of your block and realized that you had forgotten to put it on, would you go back and get it.

In future this kind of test may be nullified though, as we may see this kind of technology being actively ingested, so it exists within us, rather than on or around us.

Traditionally seen as a medical innovation, it may be equally useful in a technological sense and has already seen some interesting uses such as capsule Endoscopy procedures. Here a pill containing lights and a camera is swallowed and a doctor can then investigate a patient’s internal tracts. Although not widespread yet, given its non-invasive option compared to more traditional methods it is likely to become more popular in the future.

However, this kind of ingestible device may become more popular, with the CEO of Jawbone recently saying that they were hoping to bring out an ingestible device to track health metrics like the number of steps taken, heart rate and glucose levels without needing to remember to attach a device to yourself. This is a very different proposition to the medical use though, whereas the capsule Endoscopy reduces invasiveness, ingestible technology for daily use significantly increases it.

Being able to track our personal metrics to a higher degree of accuracy whilst not needing to wear anything certainly sounds good in theory, but in practice it may create significant issues.

For instance, when my current wearable wristband is out-of-date I can either update the firmware or buy a new one and throw the old one away. How could you do this with something that is inside your body?

Also we have seen through hindsight that several forms of communication that we previously held to be secure are actually far from it. Cell phones are the prime example, and if this kind of breach were to happen to something that was inside you, you couldn’t just take it off and stop communicating the information. The information from these kinds of devices is also going to be considerably more important than calls or texts, so the privacy is incredibly important and being able to update the security settings on devices that sit inside your body is not going to be easy.

So will ingestible become the next big thing? Maybe, but the companies leading the way will certainly need to work out these issues and make sure they are totally transparent with the public before they become popular.


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