The future isn't wearable technology, but rather ingestible technology
Forget seeing how many steps you toook today by a glance at that plastic strapped to your wrist. In fact you can forget all those clips, pendants, rings, shoe chips, and bands designed to monitor your health and fitness from the outside in. Because, according to Jawbone CEO Hosain Rahman, the next wave in fitness tech will have you looking inward instead of outward. Wearables, meet ingestibles.
In a talk given at the Code/Mobile conference in California, Rahman announced that people will soon be swallowing their trackers instead of wearing them. If this sounds weirdly invasive, consider this fact, based on two 2014 reports: While one in five of us owns a fitness tracking device, only one in 10 actually uses it. Add to that how easy most devices are to cheat—we've all done that dance in the living room to meet our step count in the eleventh hour—and tech companies have a serious problem on their hands, er, wrists. (15 GIFs Every Fitness Tracker Addict Can Relate To.)
"The first thing you have to crack though is actually getting people to wear [[the device]]," Rahman said onstage. "If you can keep it on all the time, the amount of information you get about the user is staggering."
Instead of trying to get people to remember to strap their tracker on, Rahman proposed having them simply swallow it. The new devices—which are still very much in the conceptual stage—would come in two types: Those that "pass through" your system, giving a picture of everything from your heart rate to oxygen levels to digestion in that moment; and those that can live in the bloodstream indefinitely, allowing for long-term tracking, potentially including things like your blood alcohol level, hunger hormones, or gut bacteria make up. (Do you know The Right Way to Use Your Fitness Tracker?)
Eventually he sees a future where your internal Jawbone fitness tracker can sync up with all the tech in your environment, working together to make a seamlessly healthier and more comfortable world. For example, a tiny monitor in your bloodstream could sync with your home automation system, raising the thermostat when your body temperature is lower or dimming the lights when your melatonin levels drop, signalling that you're getting sleepy. Or your tracker could tell your smart key for your car how drunk you are, preventing you from starting the ignition until you're sober. (Thats crazy! But your current tracker can do more than you think, too, like these 5 Cool Ways to Use Your Fitness Tracker That You Probably Haven't Thought Of.)
In other words, it would outgrow the category of just being a fitness tracker and move into the next generation of smart devices. Yet the precedent for this already exists. Last year Google announced it was developing a robotic pill that, once swallowed, could monitor a wide range of health issues and could even detect diseases like cancer on a cellular level.
And if you're worried about the safety, the FDA has already approved two ingestible sensors for human use—the Proteus Ingestible Sensor for monitoring medicine useage and the PillCam COLON which is a less invasive way to get a colonoscopy.
While all that data could be invaluable to both doctors and marketers, it remains to be seen whether or not it will really help people live better, healthier lives. Will having an accurate calorie count of every bite we've eaten help us make better food decisions, or will relying on a machine to tell us when we're hungry make us lose touch with our bodies? (Do You Have to Be Hungry to Lose Weight?) Will having a tracker make people overconfident and skip routine doctor's checkups or follow-ups? And will we even be able to synthesize that mountain of daily data into meaningful changes?
Rahman thinks it can be done. "If you make it useful for people, there's lots of business models. The ultimate goal is to help people live longer, live healthier, have lower medical costs and that's the holy grail."
We would agree about the holy grail, but we'll have to just wait and see if swallowing a tracker is the means to that end. And if so, we're going to have to come up with a new excuse to be dancing around the living room at the end of the day.