Wearable Technology

Wearable technology is one of the next big things when it comes to consumer trends. From the Apple Watch to Android Smartwatches there is an increasing array of options for wearable smart technology. When wearing these devices we carry around a lot of power without even thinking about it. They enable us to track many different things related to health and activity, for example.

It was recently announced that Google is paying watch company Fossil $40 million in order to buy the intellectual property for smartwatch technology under development. This indicates that wearable technology is an important element of technology company strategy. More importantly, what are the benefits for individuals?

Source: Wearable

When was the first smartwatch released?

Apple announced its first smartwatch at the end of 2014. The Apple Watch shipped globally in 2015,  selling 4.2 million devices during the second quarter of 2015.  Prior to this a lesser known startup called Pebble raised money on a Kickstarter funding campaign, going on to sell more than one million units.

One of the most well-known wearable devices is the FitBit. Designed purely to track the owner’s health and fitness regime, they have sold more than 63 million devices during ten years of existence.

How has wearable technology evolved?

As with many electronic innovations, wearable technology was simpler when it was first released. As technology has advanced, so has the capability of wearable devices to the point that some are now as capable as a phone.

Indeed, many smartwatches can now not only make and receive calls, but also link to your smartphone to play music either directly from the watch or through a Bluetooth speaker.

Being able to stream music through another device is an evolution in the technology originally used by fitness trackers, which could synchronise your activity by linking up with  a smartphone. This would allow tracking of daily activity, heart rate, sleep patterns and much more. These systems can be useful for people who work out regularly or are just generally interested in how much activity they are doing.

The latest version of the Apple Watch, version 4, also has an electrocardiogram (ECG) system which has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. For example, it can detect if the wearer has a fall and can automatically call emergency services.

How can wearable devices evolve further?

Last week computing.com featured an article on hypoallergenic wearable technology. Researchers at The University of Tokyo have developed a new wearable electronic sensor that can be worn for over a week at a time without causing the wearer discomfort.

The innovation works by putting the device against the person’s skin and running cold water over it. The technology then sticks to the skin and will stay attached for over a week. This eliminates the need to use a strap to wear the device which can cause allergic reactions among some people.

This kind of research suggests that there is a changing landscape for wearable technology. In future we may be able to use the technology for extended periods of time and without potential irritation for some.

Where does it go from here?

Whilst there have been many changes as technology has evolved, it looks like this could be a key period for a step change in the adoption  and potential capabilities of wearable technology. Google entering the space will likely see them look for new innovations and ways to synchronise with their other offerings. This in turn will have the knock-on effect of other providers looking to improve and innovate their own technology.

The developments in Japan will no doubt also have an impact on how producers manufacture devices. This means an exciting immediate and long term future for wearable technology which could impact many areas of our individual daily lives.

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