Wearables have a lot of different uses, from helping people stay in shape, to giving hotels and theme parks an easy way to let guests into their rooms. However children’s charity UNICEF wants to take things in a new direction. As part of its Wearables for Good Challenge program, it wants to encourage the development of wearable devices that can be used to improve the health of mothers and their children in impoverished countries.
UNICEF wants these wearables to be bare bones and practical. There’s no need for advanced features like notifications and fitness tracking. Instead it wants the wearable devices to focus on health factors, such as giving a mother the ability to test how far along in her pregnancy she is, or determine if she may need medical care for certain common conditions.
Outside of keeping people healthy however, UNICEF also believes that wearables would be incredibly useful in disaster hit areas. If people caught in rubble or stranded by floods were wearing trackable devices, they would be much easier to find and save.
While battery life might be an issue, one other suggested use is to help children learn to read by narrating Ebooks to them through a small speaker.
The new initiative is being made along with chip maker ARM and design firm Frog Design. Together they hope to collaborate with different developers, new and old, around the world to put some of these ideas into practice. It’s hoped that through the scheme not only can new, affordable and useful wearables can be created, but wearables as a technology can be made as ubiquitous as smartphones.
At least that’s the plan. It will likely take several years to come into effect, but it’s an important stepping stone and shows that the potential for the technology is far more varied than is currently being explored. You never know, some of the standards such as invisibility, long battery life and focus on practicality, could cross over into more mainstream wearable products too.