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article imageHow safe are wearables to wear?

By Tim Sandle     Oct 30, 2018 in Technology
Wearable devices are increasingly becoming commonplace. However, there are some safety concerns that consumers should be aware of, especially with substandard devices. These issues include electrical overheating, biocompatibility and data security.
According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the number of wearable devices worldwide will reach 112 million by the end of 2018. These devices include smartwatches, clothes, jewelry, fitness trackers and head displays.
While many wearables come from manufacturers with good and proven reputations, some are substandard, and the risk of poorly conceived devices rises as the range of different devices expands. The trend in wearable devices is being driven by the fashion sector, offering consumers a range of designs and colors.
Poorly designed devices can present risks to consumers. Such risks, as reviewed by the U.K. standards body UL, include risks to skin. This can arise because the materials that make up a wearable can cause chemical reactions which can affect the wearer’s skin, especially where devices are worn for long periods of time.
Another risk arises from batteries and electrical circuits, which can become warm as they are used. An increase in heat can create discomfort for the wearer and lead to skin irritation, especially for those devices that are worn close to the body.
A further issue related to the plastic material from which many devices are molded. Some types of plastics are not compatible with an individual’s skin. People using such wearables for the first time are advised to remove them periodically to check and to minimize long-term contact with skin during the first period of use. With metals, nickel allergies are a further common cause of skin reactions. Devices should be labelled as ‘containing nickel’ or as ‘nickel-free’.
With batteries, while most batteries are safe there can be problems especially when devices are mis-used. For example, when repeatedly overcharged, dropped, bent or squished, batteries have the potential to short circuit, overheat and potentially malfunction.
There are also security risks. Many wearable device makers collect and store personal data. Some manufacturers sell data back to the users by charging a monthly fee, but they also collect and store the data to sell to third parties. The degree that this is a problem will vary with consumers, but it is an important consideration for consumers to weigh-up.
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