WEARABLE technology has been around for a long time, even though it may not have been in the form that we are accustomed to. A prime example would be calculator watches which were hugely popular in the early ‘80s. Though the idea of combining two or more functions into one gadget did not catch on until much later, at the turn of the century to be precise, wearable technology has progressed a lot since the humble calculator watch.
Wearable technology is not necessarily confined to fitness trackers or smartwatches, it is more than that, given the technological advances with accelerometers, gyroscopes, altimeters, optical heart rate monitors, solar panels, superior batteries and the list goes on and on, you get the picture.
Wearable technology is advancing at such a rate that one would be able to monitor not only one’s physiological condition such as heart rates, movements, sleep patterns, thereby tapping into various biometrics enabling us to take a deeper look into our body’s physiological state but the future promises that we would also be able to monitor our body’s psychological condition.
In 2015, the French football team FC Nantes and French riders in the 2015 Road World Championship had tested an ingestible device, which was jam-packed with sensors that enabled the user to monitor changes in core body temperature from a computer, in real time. This technology could potentially assist athletes to work out the ideal recovery time before another intensive session and base their training plans around that data. It is especially useful to athletes as it does away with the need to wear anything whilst training intensively, thus enabling the athletes to focus on what matters the most, training.
There is another type of device that measures emotions through multiple sensors including a Galvanic Skin Response to detect something called Electrodermal Response, which is deemed to be a great indicator of emotional state. Again, this technology syncs up with your phone and you can monitor your psychological condition, in real time. Further, with the device syncing up with mobile phones, the device can then provide recommendations and advise on how to reduce stress and keep your emotions in check. Wearable technology is not only a means for the modern man to consume large amounts of data regarding one’s body or habits, it also provides real life application in the realm of medicine. Currently, the technology is out there with regard to micro sensors embedded into the single use silicone contact lens. The purpose for the contact lens is to be able to detect subtle pressure changes in the eye, specifically intraocular pressure changes.
This enables a doctor to identify the best time to take those measurements and the correct time to take those measurements are of paramount importance as elevated pressure changes in the eye is linked to optic nerve damage and can cause blindness. With this technology, ailments afflicting the eyes may be a thing of the past. Wearable technology does not stop at merely monitoring how the human body behaves but its applications are limitless. Wearables could be passive devices which are embedded into either clothing or accessories and such passive devices enable the user to interact with other items around them.
For example, a user could have a passive device embedded in an accessory and that passive device interacts with the security system of the user’s home or vehicle. Think about it, you will never ever be locked out of your own home or worry about losing your keys, ever again.
Whilst it is premature to predict specific features or form factors that will prevail in the future, wearable tech presents an interesting case study. Never before has computing been small enough to be worn relatively comfortably around the clock on the body, presenting opportunities for breakthrough medical advancements and unfortunately, marketing nuisances.
Battery life of any smart devices is by far the biggest obstacle that prevents broad market adoption and retention. Power consumption of key components like processors, radios, memories, and sensors are the primary culprit in draining our devices. More research would need to be put in in order for battery life to be extended to such an extent that we will only need to charge those devices once a month. The problem faced by wearable technology is that many still use mobile phone parts to make their product. Whilst those parts work wonderfully well for the mobile phones, those parts limit the full potential of wearable technology. Another big area to watch out for is what happens to your information which has been collated by the various devices around you.
You may think that the collation of data may not affect you but what could potentially happen is that the information collated could be used to target marketing campaigns towards you. Though the evolution of hardware for wearable technology is far from perfect, the market is developing software for wearable technology in a frenzy and in the hopes of keeping up with the appetite of the users. Therefore, developing permission based software would be of paramount importance to ensure that the data collated are either disposed of ethically and safely or handled with the utmost integrity. The future of wearable technology can be viewed as scary as it continues to challenge the traditional way we interact with devices around us but there would be no progress if we do not take that chance.
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