Wearables - wrist

Wearable Technology New and Old

Amazingly wearable technology has been around since 1286, when the first eye glasses were invented and worn by the Emperor Nero.  There were further developments including a smart ring 1644-1911 used as a small abacus, a wearable watch invented in 1505 and fashion technology in 1884, where models had lights attached to their dresses.

However, it was not until the 20th Century and the invention of the silicon chip that the technology developed at a much faster rate.  The 1970s, 80s and 90s saw the invention of calculator watches and a head mounted screen with an input device.

It wasn’t until the turn of the century that wearable technology took off with Bluetooth Headsets, Fitness Trackers, Google Glass and Smart watches developing a new industry, which would make technology more accessible and user friendly. Below is an explanation of what is available in 2015.

Fitness Tracker – Monitor Fitness Levels

So, where now?  During this time the nation had become aware of health issues, via the press and television.  This was not just a UK predicament, but was flagged up in all developed nations, where there had been an obesity epidemic with the consequent health issues.  Technology came to the fore with activity trackers and fitness gadgets, to help individuals to monitor their activity levels.  Runners, walkers and gym members soon started to wear gadgets which monitored their every move and gave them feed back on the calories burnt, steps/energy, distance travelled and heart rate, even the quality and length of the sleep cycle was analysed.

Smart Watches – Help to improve Efficiency on the Move

At the same time Smart Watches began to appear, mainly using the Android OS.  These could sync with the phone with the same OS and would use apps on the phone to record activities and take pictures.  Finally, the Apple Watch was developed, which is the most sophisticated of these devices. The core activities being, messages, making and receiving calls, activity tracking, calendar, emails, photos, maps, games emails and SIRI, regrettably the battery life only lasts for 1 day.  Further developments are afoot with a new model to be announced in September.

Sport Technology – Help to improve Technique

Aligned with activity and fitness trackers, individual sports have developed the technology.  Snow boarding being an example where the snowboard is transformed into a smart snowboard, which gives advice on how to improve techniques.  The data is gathered via four sensors and transmitted via Bluetooth to the accompanying app that gives tips for improving skills in the sport.  Included is a video overlay function which records footage of the snowboarding, allowing the software to automatically gather data about flex, load, balance, GPS and acceleration.

Baby Health Monitoring

Happy baby, happy parent, technology has been developed to track vital signs, including a thermometer which senses, records and sends alerts to a mobile device, Temp Traq.  Another device favoured by parents is Kids Paxie Band which measures GPS activity and has boundary settings so parents know exactly, where their off spring are located.

Parents, therefore do not have to be constantly watching their children.

Pet Monitoring – Help to ensure Pet is Healthy

Even the family pet has not been excluded from wearable technology.  Anicall is a smart collar that can measure a pet’s heart rate and body temperature to determine when a walk under the hot sun might raise the risk of heat stroke!  The accompanying app can analyse the pet’s mood determining, whether or not it is happy or sad.  I think that it will be some time before this concept will catch on and be as popular as the fitness trackers.

Fashion Technology – Dresses of Tomorrow

Fashion has also used wearable technology.  At a recent London fashion show, CuteCircuit enabled the models to customise their outfits as they walked down the cat walk.  A Bluetooth-controlled app allowed the models to use an app to change the colour of their clothes.  At another fashion show Tech in Motion, clothes were able to reveal the mental state of the wearer, by changing colour accordingly ranging from tranquil green to ecstatic yellow!

 Medical Science – Neuro Science

Leading on from clothes indicating the mood of the wearer, Medical Science has made use of this new technology, although there is no actual relationship.  Thync [company name] have created technology, which can induce on-demand shifts in energy, calm or focus.  This is achieved by ‘Thync Vibes’ which are intelligent wave forms delivered via neuro signalling,  targeting specific neural pathways to change a person’s state of mind.  Eliminating the need for over medication, with consequent side effects.

Smart Limbs – 3D Prosthetic

Somewhat more practical are smart limbs.  An arm cast fitted with an Intel Edisson processor is able to read data back to a phone app via Bluetooth, which is then able to send pulses and so nurse the internal injuries back to health, using 20 minute sessions daily.A 3D printed prosthetic arm has been created and modelled by an amputee to show how with the right technology the user could carry out simple gripping actions.

Aging Population – Improve Quality of Life

Other uses includes reminding someone to take their medication, monitor sleep patterns, knee braces with stress or movement sensors.  This is just an extension of the fitness/activity trackers and would greatly enhance the lives of many and could equally be as lucrative.  This is currently unchartered territory in the UK, but is an established component in the care of the elderly in the US and Japan.

Business – Improve Efficiency @Work, @Home and On the Move

Wearable technology has been consumer driven.  Deloitte researched this and found that manufacturing, oil and gas could make use of this technology enabling them to save millions by displaying instructions, relaying video and helping to establish remote links with experts. already,  Tesco has, already, equipped staff at a distribution centre in Ireland with armbands to track goods being gathered, allocate tasks to the wearer, forecast completion time and quantify movements across 9.6 miles of shelving.

Whilst Volkswagen recently announced an app for the Apple Watch allowing parents to monitor the driving habits of their teenage children.

For the last 10 years the police in the UK have used video recording devices and the New York police are currently piloting the use of Google Glass.  All these measures will ensure that the police can be seen to be accountable in cases where the accused alleges improper police methods.

The Future

So where does this leave us?  Development will continue, but as yet there does not appear to be any cohesive strategy.  Progress has been made by individual companies and in some instances there has been overlaps in the technology i.e. fitness/activity trackers.  Currently, the technology is evolving and is in the early stages.  Progress will be made and as devices become more reliable and do not need to be recharged so regularly, wearables will become more popular and market forces will rationalise the costing and the technology will become a part of the IOT [Internet of Things].