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Can e-commerce be good for your health?

March 30, 2015

With the upcoming release of the Apple Watch, and a plethora of other devices already in the market, wearing a watch that measures your vitals and keeps track of distances traveled on foot may soon become an ordinary thing

Fitness trackers and smartwatches are poised to revolutionize the way people think about health and wellness. With the upcoming release of the Apple Watch, and a plethora of other devices already in the market, wearing a watch that measures your vitals and keeps track of distances traveled on foot may soon become an ordinary thing. Recent news indicated that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will not scrutinize wearable devices, which will allow them to enjoy rapid adoption in the consumer market.

The new smartwatch by Apple will promote healthy lifestyles
The Apple Watch will be available for purchase in various colors and models, allowing consumers to customize their experience. While the device has many of the same features as the iPhone, its ability to track fitness, especially heart rate and steps taken, is a major benefit for wearers. Many of Apple’s products promote e-commerce, and the Apple Watch is no exception. The smartwatch can store music, access GPS, download apps and be customized with user preferences. Perhaps most interestingly, however, the product marks the first time that the world can truly say e-commerce is good for your health.

Bloomberg reported on the FDA’s decision to not over-police the product. Even though Apple is venturing a bit into healthcare with wearable devices, it will not be subject to aggressive regulation. Bakul Patuel, who oversees consumer-driven health-focused technology products for the FDA, explained that the Apple Watch does not warrant close scrutiny from the agency just yet. Since the product is not marketed for the treatment of any illness, nor will it be a go-to tool for doctors, it will be left alone in a sense.

“We are taking a very light touch, an almost hands-off approach,” said Patel, according to the news source. “If you have technology that’s going to motivate a person to stay healthy, that’s not something we want to be engaged in.”

The FDA tends to be more concerned with devices that try to mimic or replace traditional medical equipment, and the Apple Watch does not qualify. As a tool that measures heart rate and steps, the agency thinks it will actually promote healthy lifestyles rather than cause any real harm.

“We are focusing only on the higher end of technology,” added Patel. “What are benefits to public health against the risks to public health? We always try to balance that.”

The Apple Watch has gone through rigorous testing and examination
According to 9to5Mac, if the Apple Watch turns out to be effective in diagnosing diseases, that still will not make the device subject to increased scrutiny. The major consideration of the agency is that any statements made by the company about the product be accurate. Apple has already held discussions with the FDA regarding the the screening of health-related claims made by app developers.

The media outlet also discussed how Apple has been promoting the watch and iPhone as powerful tools for improving personal health and fitness. The company gave ABC News an exclusive look at its top secret gym-style testing facility, where Apple employees test the capabilities of the Apple Watch. In secret, Apple personnel have been volunteering to take part in yoga, running and rowing exercises in order to collect data about how the watch performs. Jeff Williams, vice president of operations, explained how employees participated in the testing.

“[The employees] knew they were testing something, but they didn’t know it was for the Apple Watch,” said Williams, according to ABC News. “We hooked them up with all the masks and so forth, but we would put on an Apple Watch covered up.”

Staff also traveled to places like Alaska and went to Dubai to test how the watch works in different environments. As such, the watch is expected to perform in more extreme weather conditions as well, although it is not known to what extent it will hold up.

The Apple Watch may be useful to doctors after all
Dr. Michael McConnell, a cardiovascular doctor at Stanford, explained how Apple’s products, such as ResearchKit, an open-source platform to facilitate in the sharing of medical research, could eventually help improve developments in cardiovascular technology, reported ABC News.

“We can use the power of something that they carry with them every day to help with measurements and surveys,” said McConnell, according to the news source. “I think it is offering us a new way to do medical research.”

Stanford University recently used ResearchKit to register 11,000 participants in a medical study in one day, 9to5Mac noted. The platform could help researchers access and share medical data around the world in a significant way in the future.

As previously stated, this the first time that it can said e-commerce is good for your health. Wearables will soon become commonplace, and it seems they may have a positive effect on society. 

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