Scientists and Engineers are competing around the world to make the next big thing in the world of wearable technology. To succeed, it seems that they need to conquer the world of fashion. Sensoria at the feet of a volunteer, data shown on the phone next to it. (Image via mindtecstore)
Wearable technology is the term used to refer to any electronic device that is worn on or inside the body. Back in 2015, the market was worth $2 billion and 50 million wearable electronics were sold. The projection is that in 2019, 125 million devices will enter households and businesses because even businesses are seduced. In fact, Forbes reported that employees using wearable technologies experienced 3.5% more job satisfaction and performed 8.5% more than those who don’t. It is estimated that 10 people out of 60 own wearable technology, and among them, 48% are Gen Y (18-34 years old). The most common forms of wearable technology are as an accessory and as part of a piece of clothing with smartwatches leading the market, but there are many types of such technology.
There are 6 types of wearable on the market: implantables, smartwatches, smart jewelry, fitness trackers, smart clothing and head-mounted displays. A good example of the head-mounted display is the Google Glass or the Oculus Rift. Their ability is to present data directly to the eyes whether it is by taking the user to a virtual world or taking pictures or showing notifications. Smart clothing is either regular garments, which have additional functionalities or special garments that have sensors in the form of silver-coated fiber that collect mostly health data from the body. One example is the pair of socks Sensoria that records the user’s running performance. Smart clothing really is trying to create a balance between fashion and health. For example, a new jacket/coat on the market is meant to record heartbeats, blood sugar and blood pressure. The jacket is infused with AI technology that communicates with a smartphone, allowing the user to control or set the temperature. This could help so many people from those with diabetes and heart disease to those who don’t even know what is happening in their body. But, designers see even further use for athletes, and how the coat can help monitor their performance and alert coaches when an athlete’s vitals are below normal. And, it will sure help to stay healthy in style, once a designer put its name on the coat.
While smartwatches and fitness trackers are well known now, thanks to Apple watch and Fitbit among others, smart jewelry are still a little in the shadows. The goal with the electronic jewelry is to attract women. Those devices let the user know about any new email or phone call. Just like other smart accessories, the jewelry relieves users from the “pain” of looking at their phones. Again here, many jewelry designers are teaming with engineers to offer consumers the most attractive products. The least recognized type of wearable is implantable, which is usually found in healthcare in the form of tattoos and heart health devices. In the future, there will be smart implantable birth control as well. Some implantable ID card is also in the making to facilitate purchases in-store or identify employees faster.
While it is clear that wearable technologies will help boost revenues for tech companies and fashion designers, the truth is that the idea of having a smart device inside the body feels a bit scary. In some cases, like in healthcare, they sure are necessary, but who really needs a ring that conveys notifications? Are wearable technologies the new way tech companies are planning to make the world addicted to electronics? What other issues are lurking behind the comfort and convenience wearable devices offer?
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