Future Friday: Monitoring employee well-being by testing their sweat

by Michael Haberman on October 31, 2014 · 3 comments


A wearable device monitoring sweat could prevent injuries and accidents.

A wearable device monitoring sweat could prevent injuries and accidents.

I know there were probably some “ewww” responses to this headline, but there are some excellent possibilities for this technology. Think safety, productivity, and saving lives.

Diagnosing with sweat

According to Susan Scutti, in Medical Daily, a person’s sweat is a cornucopia of information about the body. Although mostly water, sweat also contains tiny amounts of ammonia, urea, salts, and sugar. From these chemicals what is occurring in the body can be determined. To utilize this information researchers are creating a device, about the size of a band-aid that collects sweat and analyzes it via a connection to a smart phone. As Scutti reports one researcher said “Sweat is a vastly untapped biofluid for human performance monitoring. This researcher, Dr. Joshua Hagen of the Air Force Research Laboratory, sees this as a great way to monitor the performance of jet pilots who are flying $30 million machines.

Possible uses in the workplace

Since this kind of monitoring works for one workplace (the cockpit of a jet) I see multiple applications in multiple workplaces. How many workers succumb to heat stroke during the summer? Being able to monitor workers in order to give them rest and water breaks at the appropriate times would great. Workers who are in situations of great duress, such as firefighters, could be monitored so that commanders would know when to withdraw them based upon their physiological condition. Obviously there would be numerous military applications.

Perhaps people might be skittish about privacy concerns. If that is the case, then don’t monitor them, rather give them the technology to monitor themselves. Have a device that sounds an alarm when someone needs a break or fluids.

Applications beyond the workplace

Annually here in the south we have high school football players who collapse from heat stroke and sometimes die. Coaches are taught to monitor for signs of heat stroke, but with many players to pay attention to some signs may get overlooked. What if each player was outfitted with a device that would signal a coach when the player was overworked and susceptible to collapse? What parent would not sign up for that, and possibly even pay for it.

There are many other possible applications for this in our personal health as well. As Scutti mentioned in her article doctors check our body fluids for signs of disease before the disease really manifests itself. Blood is checked for diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Getting this same type of information just by checking our sweat rather than having a syringe stuck in a vein certainly seems to be a “win” in my book.

 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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