What is Wearable Technology? Examples of Wearables.
Wearable technologies, known mostly just as “wearables,” are electronic devices that are physically worn by individuals in order to track, analyze and transmit personal data. These “smart” IoT devices can track biometric data from heart rate to sleep patterns, and are also becoming popular consumer technologies in the gaming and fashion industries.
It seems like everything nowadays is a “smart” device; Smart toasters. Smart dog collars. Smart homes. In the age of “smart”, there is nothing more intelligent or more innovative than the devices being produced by the wearables industry. These devices help collect and analyze real-time personal data that informs us on everything from our health to our workouts. They’ve become extremely popular tools to help us stay informed and in-touch with ourselves to the point that one in every three people in the US now sport a wearable device.
What exactly is a wearable? Wearables are electronic devices that are worn on a person (usually close to the skin) in order to accurately relay important medical, biological and exercise data to a database. Wearables have made the IoT industry the nearly-trillion dollar behemoth it is today. Your Apple Watch and Fitbit are classic examples of wearable technology, but those aren’t the only devices being developed today. In addition to smart watches, VR and AR technology, smart jackets and a wide variety of other gadgets are leading us towards a better-connected lifestyle. Each device’s main job is to collect millions of data points that range from how many steps you take to your heart rate. And it’s a booming industry. In fact, the wearables industry is expected to balloon to a whopping $77 billion by 2025.
The advancement of wearables has been a welcomed tool for the insurance, healthcare and sports industries for a number of reasons. In order to promote healthier lifestyles, insurance companies issue wearables to their customers, who then track their health data. The data collected informs premium prices and can paint a more accurate picture about the overall health of their customers.
The healthcare industry is probably seeing the biggest benefit from wearable technology. Patients who wear these smart devices can measure information ranging from body temperature to blood pressure, which is then relayed to their medical team in real-time. If something looks off, doctors have a quicker way to accurately diagnose and treat a patient. The entire treatment process is now quicker thanks to the data collected by a wearable device because doctors no longer have to run a gamut of tests to determine an illness or disease. They can reference the data collected by a wearable to quickly figure out the cause of the medical mishap.
Having all of this health data in real-time is, of course, helping the sports and fitness industries push the boundaries of training. Professional athletes from all over the world maximize their training regimes thanks to the biometric data captured through wearable technology. Elite athletes, from marathon runners to the Golden State Warriors and Liverpool FC, are using smart compression shirts to maximize every move an athlete makes. These smart shirts use a combination of GPS, accelerometers and biomedical sensors to constantly measure the performance of each athlete. Is Liverpool superstar Mo Salah taking the optimal route to a ball? Is NBA all-star Steph Curry maximizing his hydration levels to perform at his peak ability? How can MLB players, like Mike Trout or Kris Bryant, maximize their acceleration out of the batter’s box? Wearable technology is the key to answering these questions and unlocking the optimal potential of world-class athletes.
The business world, in general, is enhanced by the introduction of wearables to its workforce. Seventy-nine percent of employees who wear a smart device in the office report that the devices are instrumental to their work. Arming a workforce with wearable devices makes sense for employers. These devices enhance communication, track employee activity, boost jobsite safety measures and can actually improve the health and quality of life for a workforce. A healthier, happier workforce will then lead to higher rates of employee retention, saving companies thousands, if not millions, of dollars annually.
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Examples of Wearable Technologies
Health & Fitness Wearables
Wearables are most associated with the health and wellness sectors. Smart watches, like a Fitbit or Apple Watch, have pioneered the way we track everything from heart rates to our daily steps. Constantly checking in with them (and maybe obsessing over them) have become part of a daily routine for millions of people across the globe. These watches inherently encourage healthier lifestyles because of the data they collect. Knowing how far your run encourages you to push yourself further to beat your old record. Seeing that you’re almost to your daily 10,000 step goal encourages you to go for a walk around the block. Even tracking your current sleep habits could lead to changes that help you sleep more soundly at nights. In a sense, wearable technology is one of the best ways to gamify the health and wellness journey.
Gaming is one of the biggest emerging frontiers for wearable technology. Virtual reality (VR) headsets are the most common (and popular) form of wearables in the industry. VR headsets, like the Oculus Rift or the Playstation VR, instantly immerse gamers in other-worldly experiences from the second they strap in. Do you want to know how it would feel to fight with Lightsabers? Maybe you really want to live out your adrenaline junky dreams of racing in the Indianapolis 500? VR wearables are bringing awe-inspiring experiences like these to gamers all over the world.
Wearable technologies that are really starting to take off in the gaming industry are haptic devices. These devices provide tactile feedback to a gamer in real-time. This means that a device takes advantage of a gamer’s sense of touch by providing force or vibrations to a user. To put it simply, haptic vests, gloves or suits make gaming more realistic. A gamer can now feel actual recoil after shooting their virtual weapon or can even experience real feedback of what it feels like to dribble a virtual basketball. Though still in its infancy, haptic technology is poised to make the future of gaming, and wearables, more entertaining and realistic.
It only makes sense that wearable technology has started to permeate fashion culture. Athletes wear full body suits, equipped with hundreds of little IoT sensors, to measure their every move. The data gathered will help them to better optimize their swing, shot or kick. The consumer wearable technology clothing industry is still relatively new, albeit already intriguing. Smart jackets are being made to automatically cool or warm the body based on body temperatures taken from sensors throughout the jacket. Smart rings are giving people a stylish way to track their steps or measure their sleep habits. Our pants might one day become smart enough to use the thermal energy our bodies naturally produce to charge our cell phones. Wearable technology in fashion is showing us that tech can be smart and sophisticated all at once.