During a session at the CCWC Conference in Anaheim, CA earlier in the month, one of the presenters said something that struck a chord with me. It was the final session of this year's annual conference, and several high level executives were discussing the future of workers' compensation. Corvel Chairman & CEO Gordon Clemons was talking about the importance of investing in technology (a man after my own heart), when he made the prediction that “this time next year we will be talking about wearables”.
It was a great prediction, but why wait until next year? I want to talk about them now.
I’ve written about the impact of mobile and wireless technology on workers’ comp, but I’ve never addressed the concept of “wearables”. I recognize that by putting this on the table prematurely, I will be causing CEO's all over the nation to assemble feasibility committees within their respective organizations to study this concept. Based on the technical prowess of our industry in general, I suspect the first assigned task for the committee will be learning what a “wearable” is.
For those of you finding yourself now assigned to that feasibility committee dedicated to the study and analysis of wearable technology uses for workers’ compensation, allow me to save you about 6 months time. Wearables are portable technology devices that can leverage wireless communication protocols to gather, disseminate and analyze personal data. Contrary to initial industry impressions, adult diapers and other incontinence products are not considered “wearable technology”. Don't waste your time analyzing those.
There. I just saved your company hundreds of man hours and about a quarter of a million dollars. Please stop by my website and spend it on technology. We have a lovely cloud based forms auto-population system we would love to sell you. But I digress…
Clemons was absolutely right with his prediction. Wearable devices, in the form of braces, bracelets, necklaces, watches and glasses will revolutionize information management for medicine in general, and this will have great impact on care in workers' compensation. Sensors will be able to transmit vital health data to medical professionals; glasses such as Google Glass will be used in medical consultations and training scenarios. The possibilities are boundless, as what we are talking about is moving and monitoring personal data securely in real time. The more accurate and timely the information, the better the treatment and response can be.
Wearable technology is already here. I mentioned Google Glass, but there are other devices on the market today. Last year my wife bought a Pebble Smart Watch as a gift for my birthday. It is a device that can interact with my smart phone, and allow me to read texts and emails without looking at my phone. Before I had this watch I had to indicate I was bored with someone's company by constantly looking at my phone. Now I can indicate my boredom by repeatedly checking my watch. Whether I am checking the time or reading the latest joke forwarded to me they will never know. My Pebble Watch can also show me the battery status of my phone, the weather, stock information, GPS maps and navigation and events on my calendar. It can even control the music and picture taking function on the phone – although the reason I would want to take a photo of the inside of my pocket escapes me.
I recently had a glimpse of just how much of our personal information is going to be freely distributed in the technologically mobile/wireless/wearable world. It was the day after I flew home from the CCWC conference, July 19th. I happened to glance at my Pebble watch, and noticed that it was telling me that it was Kevin Connors birthday. Now, I know Kevin Connors. I did not know it was his birthday. I have never known when his birthday was. But my watch knew.
Kevin Connors is a workers' compensation defense attorney I know through the National Workers' Compensation Defense Network (NWCDN). Kevin is Managing Partner, General Liability Chairperson and Sous Chef for Connors Law, LLP of Exton, PA. A skilled attorney and creative writer, he is a product of both an overactive imagination and a Jesuit school (reformed) education. Either that or it was a Jesuit Reform School – when asked for a clarification he simply mumbles. At any rate, at first I had no earthly idea how his birthday ended up on my watch.
I was eventually able to figure it out. I am not a huge Facebook fan, and, as in real life, have relatively few friends there. Kevin Connors is, however, one of my Facebook friends. Even though I do not recall entering him in my phone contacts list, I found that his complete life now exists in my phone. His phone numbers, his email addresses, his birthday – even a photo of him and his family now resides within my contacts list.
Even if you haven't met him it's kinda creepy.
All of this data apparently was placed there by the kind folks at Facebook. There is even a tiny little Facebook “f” appearing next to his photo on the phone. And from the smart phone, of course, it is just a short jump to my smart watch.
I can write this way about Kevin because, 1) he has a terrific sense of humor, and 2) my watch tells me he is in Stone Harbor on vacation and will likely never see this blog. Still, it is evidence of the increasing pervasiveness of mobile technology leveraging personal information, and that wearables are going to be part of this revolution. Mr. Clemons was correct. We will be talking about wearables next year; and if at that point my watch can tell me Kevin Connors cholesterol and heart rate, by gosh, we will really have something.