Skip to main content Skip to main navigation


Wearable systems for health care applications

Paul Lukowicz; Tünde Kirstein; Gerhard Tröster
In: Methods of Information in Medicine, Vol. 43, Pages 232-238, Schattauer, Stuttgart, Germany, 2004.


OBJECTIVES: Wearable systems can be broadly defined as mobile electronic devices that can be unobtrusively embedded in the user's outfit as part of the clothing or an accessory. In particular, unlike conventional mobile systems, they can be operational and accessed without or with very little hindrance to user activity. To this end they are able to model and recognize user activity, state, and the surrounding situation: a property, referred to as context sensitivity. Wearable systems range from micro sensors seamlessly integrated in textiles through consumer electronics embedded in fashionable clothes and computerized watches to belt worn PCs with a head mounted display. The wearable computing concept is part of a broader framework of ubiquitous computing that aims at invisibly enhancing our environment with smart electronic devices. The goal of the paper is to provide a broad overview of wearable technology and its implications for health related applications. METHODS: We begin by summarizing the vision behind wearable computing. We then describe a framework for wearable computing architecture and the main technological aspects. Finally we show how specific properties of wearable systems can be used in different health related application domains. RESULTS: Wearable computing is an emerging concept building upon the success of today's mobile computing and communication devices. Due to rapid technological progress it is currently making a transition from a pure research stage to practical applications. Many of those applications are in health related domains, in particular, health monitoring, mobile treatment and nursing. CONCLUSIONS: Within the next couple of years wearable systems and more general ubiquitous computing will introduce profound changes and new application types to health related systems. In particular they will prove useful in improving the quality and reducing the cost of caring for the aging population.