My first cell phone was my mom’s old Nokia brick. I wasn’t able to do a whole lot more than make phone calls and play Snake—but then again, what else was a phone supposed to do? When I got my first iPhone, it changed my life. For the first time, I understood that one device could do many, many things. A phone was no longer just a phone—it was a music player, a camera, a notepad, a browser, a gaming device and more. Now, watches are getting the same technological upgrade: Smartwatches can do so much more than just tell time. They can even help keep you healthy!

Anyone with a smartphone or a tablet knows there is a huge variety of fitness apps out there. Fitness trackers and bracelets, such as the Fitbit, are also becoming more and more popular. The most basic of these can track your daily activity, logging information such as steps taken, distance walked, and calories burned—the more advanced ones can do a great deal more. Not to be outdone, smartwatches are now becoming the latest gadgets to monitor health. Many even measure all the ways you move and offer exercise goals to complete each day.

Sensors in many different smartwatch models can track movement, take measurements, record information and collect data. This opens up entirely new opportunities for the medical fields. Apple, for instance, is beginning to explore the smartwatch and smartphone potential with ResearchKit, an app that allow researchers and developers to collect biometrics data. Users have control of the information; they can choose what studies to join and what information to provide. And any information is securely stored and shared. Several of the world’s leading medical institutions are already using ResearchKit to gain further insight into some of our most serious diseases, including asthma, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, breast cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Soon, you may be able to share information collected on your smart devices directly with doctors, hospitals and other medical personnel. IBM is working on deals with Apple, Johnson & Johnson, and Medtronic to collect and use more information from personal medical devices to help with patients’ clinical care. A master database of patients’ medical records would allow any medical personnel with access to see a patient’s medical information and history. This would eliminate countless hours wasted by filling out the same information for each new medical facility; it would also keep medical information consistent wherever a patient goes.

It is always exciting to see technology evolving, but isn’t it wonderful to see advancements being made that can directly improve our health and the lives of those around us?

Did You Know?

Most smartphones have the ability for a user to create an emergency card with important health information that is available right on the device’s lock screen. Apple’s Health app is built into iOS 8; numerous third-party apps exist in the Google Play Store for Android; and the Microsoft Store has several apps that are compatible with Windows Phone devices. With many of these apps, you can include information such as allergies, medications, blood type, emergency contacts and more.