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The New Wave of Wearables – Live Long and Prosper

2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the first Apple iPhone. During the last ten years, we have seen some amazing technological feats that have moved us from simple texting and phone calls, into the world of smartphone Apps, where nearly anything is possible. From tracking your fitness, tracking your spending, to colouring your world, you name it and ‘there is an App for that’. Now we are moving beyond the App and to incorporate computer and electronic technologies in a practical way, which allows us to wear the new technology. Welcome to the new wave of wearables.

WEARABLES – FURTHER HUMAN ENHANCEMENT

Wearable devices aren’t new. There have been many prototypes over the decades using the technology of the time. One early piece of wearable technology was the calculator watch, which was introduced in the 1970s but had its day by the 1980s.

The hearing aid is another early wearable invention and a technology that keeps changing and developing. Wearable devices are embedded with electronics, software, and sensors to allow the exchange of data to other connected devices without human intervention. As information is recorded and stored,

it gives insights into our lives and our movements. Sometimes, the data can be viewed freely and openly for anyone to see and privacy experts advocate that we are putting our hearts on our sleeves with what information we make available (more on privacy on next month’s article).

The pioneer of wearable fitness trackers, the Fitbit, has transformed many of us into fitness warriors. The Fitbit records and tracks movement, steps and heart rate. Many similar models record body fat composition, temperature, muscle activity, perspiration and overall health, as well as, distance and speed using GPS.

With innovation, the tech fitness wearables market is not just about The Fitbit anymore. There is an array of activity bands that are becoming enhanced. The current crop of fitness wearables are now little fitness coaches. One that is new to the tech market is GymWatch. It’s a fitness-focused wearable that tracks speed and form during weight exercises, such as weight lifting, gym machines, and body weight exercises. With three built-in sensors, it detects the range of motion and strength used. It offers real-time feedback on your form. Data is recorded to the mobile app (Android or iOS).

Wearables in the healthcare arena are becoming useful for doctors and their patients. For people with heart health problems, the iHealth Rhythm is a smart electrocardiogram that records heart activity. Worn under clothing, a flat recording device clips to a three-electrode patch worn on the sternum.

The doctor prescribes the device, to measure cardiac activity for a 72-hour period. If the person wearing it feels something wrong, they can press a button to note the problem. Data is recorded on the iHealth Pro App for doctors and patients.

Another wearable medical device is the Thermo. It’s a smart thermometer which records accurate body temperatures. Containing 16 sensors and HotSpot sensor technology to record accurate body temperatures. The use of Wi-Fi to sync temperature and advice to a compatible mobile app, which can also be shared with a doctor.

WEARABLES – BEAMING US UP TO NEW HEIGHTS

As wearables have been mostly wrist-worn, the future will go from streetwalk to catwalk. Levis and Google have come together for project Jacquard, a smart denim jacket that would let urban cyclists connect with their smartphones hands-free. Landing in 2017, the jacket is meant to allow the wearer to answer phone calls or skip/play a song from the jacket sleeve.

Smart clothing is already part of the new wave in tech wearables, where health and fitness is again the main focus.

Hexoskin, the leaders in smart clothing for health monitoring, have already created something that everyone can now wear.

Their biometric shirts have sensors woven into the fabric for measuring heart rate, pace, breathing rate and volume, steps, calories burned and sleep patterns. As the data is transferred to a mobile app, the information will provide an understanding to the health of the person in real-time.

For women, OMSignal has created a sports bra with a difference. The OMbra can track biometric data in real time via a small clip-on data box. It monitors distance, heart rate, breathing rate/rhythm and can even understand when the body is in a state to hit the gym again. Data is stored on the box and synced to the companion iPhone. Like a regular sports bra, OMbra uses a stretchable and light fabric that conforms to the shape of the body during exercise.

Footwear is also getting smarter. DigitSole shoes, made by Zhor-Tech, has already ‘kicked off’ the future of footwear with a combination of electronics and biomechanics. DigitSoles have “heating” technology, which keeps the wearer feet warm. There also is sensor technology to determine the person’s foot posture to optimise training, measure stress and to prevent injuries. Movements and other data, such as steps taken and calories burned are sent via Bluetooth to a mobile app.

WEARABLES – NOT LOST IN TRANSLATION

Travelling the world is an experience unto itself. With traipsing across the countryside, sometimes in a country where language is a barrier, it can be intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be.

Thanks to The Pilot from Waverly Labs, it’s the first smart earpiece which will have huge implications for global communication. Babel Fish, as it’s named, translates between users speaking different languages. It uses the latest technologies in speech recognition, machine translation, and wearable tech all rolled into one small wearable device.

So sticking a Babel Fish into your ear, you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of a language. The first available languages will be English, Spanish, French, and Italian.

Other languages – Hindi, Semitic, Arabic, and Slavic – are to follow. Travelling across the world will be easier, studying abroad will be easier. Even listening to music. Such a cool wearable!

THE NEXT FIVE YEARS

The next five years of wearables will bring even more immersive engagement. Smart wearable innovations will change the way we live, work and play. We will work with these new technologies smarter and faster. Machines will talk to each other. Communication will be essential. In the health and medical arena, say goodbye to the waiting room, and allow appointments to fit around your schedule. The world’s experts and specialists will be at your fingertips. In retail, shopping will become more social and interactive. More engaging.

The whole way we transact will be revolutionary, as we can swipe, scan and purchase from our wearable devices. It’s already a reality through the smart watches and smartphones that have made themselves indispensable in our connected lives. Watch what happens as our desire for interactive entertainment grows. Imagine what will happen when health insurance company start to discount our premiums based on how much physical activity we do. You will be at the heart of the action.

Are you ready?