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Wearable Technology for Behavior Control

Editor’s note : The following is a guest blog by Dr Peter Harrop, Chairman of IDTechEx.

The recent fitting of an alcohol-detecting band to a convicted binge drinker in the UK is a reminder of how the use of wearable electronics for behavior control is proceeding apace. In a first for the UK, the authorities fixed a SCRAM alcohol-detecting leg band to a high risk offender. The principle is the same as leg bands fitted by to some with Anti-Social Behavior Orders (ASBOs), where they alert the police if they go beyond a given radius from their home. They are then deemed to have breached the restraining order and are sent to a corrective center. In the case of alcohol, knowing that the particular person behaves dangerously and inappropriately when drunk, they are locked up if they over-drink again. See the new IDTechEx reports “Wearable Technology 2014-2024: Technologies, Markets, Forecasts” and “E-Textiles: Electronic Textiles 2014-2024.”

Although it sounds Orwellian, wearable technology for behavior control is now widespread. Disoriented patients, such as those with Alzheimer's disease, are geofenced with a pendant that brings the nurses running if they go towards the freeway and, in some countries, it is legal for a door to lock ahead of them, triggered by the pendant, which also brings help if they are still for too long or fall over. Increasingly Internet-enabled, they form part of the Internet of Things, where things collaborate without human input at the time but to the benefit of humans. This is detailed in the new IDTechEx report “Internet of Things (IoT): Business Opportunities 2015-2025.”

There are many animal equivalents, where a cat collar, for example, emits a tiny shock if it goes beyond a certain radius or approaches a wire delineating the restraining area. For dogs, a “bark buster” collar emits a shock, water spray, ultrasound, or vibration if it barks loudly. Most dog versions are remotely controlled by the owner and can be used for other forms of behavior control. See the forthcoming IDTechEx report “Wearable Technology for Animals 2015-2025.”

Fitness bands for humans provide information and alerts but more direct behavior control of vulnerable people is on the way, hopefully on a voluntary basis unless they are criminals. For example, exoskeletons are letting the paraplegic walk but they will be tuned to what they can manage at the time and may radio for help. Protected animal species need to be kept away from habitations where they will be killed. If the device only alerts the authorities it is too late.

There are a few objectors. Some believe that granny should be left to wander anonymously. More justifiably, some veterinarians have expressed the view that dog collars, made in East Asia, that emit a strong electric shock are inhumane and should be banned as they are not even effective for training.

19 comments on “Wearable Technology for Behavior Control

  1. jnissen
    May 21, 2014

    You made a comment this sounds Orwellion then went on the dismiss this as a positive. Sorry but all the technology in the world will not fix a drunkard. If they want to drink themselves silly you may detect that but it will not stop it. The offender will remove the band if it becomes a problem for them.

    Meanwhile this opens Pandora's box on civil liberty abuses and big brother tractics. Sorry but I want nothing to do with this one.

  2. samicksha
    May 22, 2014

    I guess you have taken “Sounds Orwellian” more than just adjective. Yes we have been running more into wearable technology but this one for Behavior Control sounds little strange i come out with mixed expressions.

  3. Davidled
    May 22, 2014

    We listen to free music in Pandora Radio which is very good internet station.  I wish that drunkard would be recovered while listening to the free music.

  4. geek
    May 22, 2014

    “some veterinarians have expressed the view that dog collars, made in East Asia, that emit a strong electric shock are inhumane and should be banned as they are not even effective for training”

    @Steve: I think ethical issues like these will arise with all kinds of technology in place and I don't think there's any right answer to whether the usage should be stopped or not. Even without wearable technologies, animals are tied up in cages and some may say that it's against their natural habitat and hence unethical.

  5. geek
    May 22, 2014

    “Sorry but all the technology in the world will not fix a drunkard. If they want to drink themselves silly you may detect that but it will not stop it. The offender will remove the band if it becomes a problem for them.”

    @jnisse: I think that's a very valid point which leads to the discussion about what's the best way to control people. Whether it is by putting up restrictions on them or whether it is by educating them is something that there's no clear answer for. I do think that a combination of both is needed practically.

  6. Steve Taranovich
    May 22, 2014

    @tzubair—Personnaly I disagree with animal collars that shock. My brother-in-law is training his “Service dog” for people with physical challenges like blindness, etc. He uses a “humane” collar that vibrates with a mild tapping motion that enables him to train his dog very well. The dog learns commands, what not to do and obedience to his owner.

  7. samicksha
    May 26, 2014

    I guess now its justified why Fashion Law Institute held a panel discussion, which focused on patents, about wearable technology.

  8. Netcrawl
    May 26, 2014

    @Steve  there are many animal equivalent, for example a cat collar, emits a tiny shock if it goes beyond a certain radius or approaches a certain area. For dog, we have a bark buster, where a collar a shock or vibration if it bark loudly.  

  9. Netcrawl
    May 26, 2014

    @Steve the animals most likely to employ wearable electronics in the next few years are those controlled by humans notably livestock and pets, livestock tagging would be still the most popular but it will much more often involve medical diagnostic.  

  10. geek
    May 27, 2014

    @Steve: I agree with this methadoloy as well. It does seem more ethical than using electric currents. However, some people might still argue about how ethical is the idea of training the dog itself and what is wrong if the animal is allowed to live a life that comes naturally to it.

  11. RedDerek
    May 28, 2014

    @SteveT – People train dogs different ways that they have had best response. I train and use search dogs in my volunteer time. I have always used a flat collar for training and never used any other devices. My dogs have turned out very well with the behavior training method I use – a type of Ian Dunbar style. There are other handlers that use electronic devices, but I am sure they could do without when imploying proper behavior / reward training that I use. Most of the training comes down to having a solid “stop” command, a strong 2-way trust relationship, and much praise and the right amount of correction.

  12. RedDerek
    May 28, 2014

    To add to my previous post and to comment on Netcrawl's… The best use of electronic dog wearables would be what the military uses for their k-9 teams for insertion. The electronic outfit that k-9s use involve 2-way communication, along with video monitoring.

  13. eafpres
    May 29, 2014

    Reading through the comments so far, my impression is that few or none are aware that large numbers of US towns and cities have been using ankle monitors for a long time.  They are used for “house arrest”, they are used with a distance sensing device to call police if you go too far, they are used with skin sensors to detect alcohol.

    The devices have been around for a long time in the US.  Previously, we didn't call them wearable!

  14. eafpres
    May 29, 2014

    I do agree that the applications of wearable technology for remote patient monitoring/health uses is very beneficial and will become a larger and larger market.  A common application I'm aware of is to help those with Sleep Apnea.  I remembered an article in Information Week last year that touched on this and other positive applications:

    Wearable Tech

  15. eafpres
    May 29, 2014

    I think my other comment was eaten by the internet, so I'll try again.  My apologies if this is a duplication.

    Regarding the ethics of using monitors on people, I would say that for someone who is convicted of a crime and the alternative is to spend some time in jail, making the choice to wear a monitor and continue to be at home and go to work is an attractive choice.  Is it really Orwellian if the wearer has had a choice to wear it or not (even if not wearing it means time in jail)?

    Regarding wearable electronics on animals, here is an application I really liked:

    Extreme Sheep LED Art

  16. chirshadblog
    May 30, 2014

    @eafpres1: It will remain for some more time as well. I think this is pretty useful even though it does not get highlighted as such. 

  17. chirshadblog
    May 30, 2014

    @eafpres: Yes it's the next big thing in the world of technology. Already Samsung has started it and the others will follow soon. 

  18. geek
    May 31, 2014

    “Regarding the ethics of using monitors on people, I would say that for someone who is convicted of a crime and the alternative is to spend some time in jail, making the choice to wear a monitor and continue to be at home and go to work is an attractive choice”

    @eafpres1: If the only idea is to isolate the person and keep them in solitary confinement, then the idea of making them wear wearable devices to track them and ensure that they stay at one place only may not sound so bad. I think most people would be in favor of it.

  19. geek
    May 31, 2014

    “A common application I'm aware of is to help those with Sleep Apnea.  I remembered an article in Information Week last year that touched on this and other positive applications”

    @eafpres1: That does sound like a very useful application. I've seen parents of kids who suffer from this be very troubled and on the look out for the kids at night.

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