Wearable devices has taken world by storm in last few years. From the age of calculator wristwatch and Sony Walkman in 70s and 80s, wearable technology has come a long way in transforming our lives. “Wearables will become the world’s best-selling consumer electronics product after smartphones,” reports CNBC, citing forecasts by market research firm Euromonitor.
The rise of wearable technology has been fuelled by technology’s tendency to get faster and smaller at the same time. The future certainly belongs to smarter on-body and in-body wearable devices which can help keep people fit, measure health parameters or geared towards enhancing lifestyle.
Wearables are devices with embedded sensors that can be worn on the body or implanted, and that receive and process data about the person who wears them or/and about the surrounding environment. These devices work wirelessly via 3G, Wifi or WiMAX or by means of connection to other devices like smartphones or tablets.
The data collected by the wearable device is processed in a processing unit located locally or in an external server, and the results are transmitted to the wearer. Smart wearables may have control, communication, storage and actuation capabilities.
Technological advancements in miniaturization of computing devices and power sources has opened up a whole new world of innovations and possible applications especially in the field of fitness, health and education among others.
Wearable devices comes in various forms and types and can broadly be classified into on-body and in-body wearables/ Implantable.
In-body wearables or implantables are the devices which are surgically implanted under the skin to sense parameters of various diseases or to transmit data to a remote center or to direct the patient to take a specific action, or automatically perform a function based on what the sensors are reading.
Implantable is transforming healthcare in the form of Bio Sensors/ Chipables, Smart Contact Lens, Smartphone ECG, Pacemakers, Implantable Tattoo/ RFID Chips.
World has seen tremendous technological advancement in wearable devices in recent years with companies such as Apple, Samsung, Fitbit among other big wearable device companies are investing billions of dollars in R&D in exploring new possibilities to improve our health and physical well-being.
Wearables comes in various forms and types such as Smart Watches, Fitness Trackers/ Activity Trackers, Smart Clothing, Smart Jewellery, Hearables, Smart Glasses, Head-mounted Displays, Wearable Cameras, Body Sensors, Location Trackers and Gesture Control Devices.
Smart watches does tell time!, but are smarter than traditional watches in terms of data collection, data processing, display capabilities and the way it wirelessly connects to smart phones and tablets to support third party applications.
At the moment smart watch is the most popular wearable product and according to a research by market analytics company, CCS Insight, 71 million smartwatches are forecast to be sold in 2018 and an extra 140 million in 2022. Smartwatch market share is expected to reach US$32.9 Billion, globally by 2020.
There are a plethora of smartwatch variants and the purpose of each model has to do with the features and functionalities offered by the device. Some of the more popular ones are kids’ smartwatches, fashion smartwatches, athletic smartwatches, and luxury smartwatches.
Some of the best-selling smart watches are from Samsung, Apple, Nike, Garmin, Fitbit, Sony, Casio, Pebble, Shanda, Google, Adidas, Xiaomi and others.
Being fit is high on everyone agenda in today’s hectic world. Fitness trackers or activity trackers are devices worn on your wrist and it keeps track of metrics such as distance walked or run, calorie burned, heart rate and quality of sleep, etc. It even reminds you to breath!
Most of the fitness trackers are designed to be worn on wrist or come with a clip to hook the tracker to your clothing or wear as a pendant around the neck. Almost all trackers are rain proof and there are specialized ones available for swimming as well. More advanced fitness trackers come with heart rate sensor, GPS capability among other features.
Smart cloth is the future of smart watch.
No need to strap gadgets to your wrist, eyes, ears, faces and feet, smart clothes are here to constantly monitor your pulse rate, body temperature, blood pressure, footsteps, perspiration and other wellness parameters all without the need of smartphones or tabs. Smart clothes are normal looking and slipping on a smart t-shirt or hooking on a smart bra or getting into smart underwear doesn’t require any extra effort.
Smart clothing are not only being used by professional athletes and fitness enthusiasts but also has practical health applications with embedded microprocessors in a shirt, a blanket, a bandage, a knitted cap, or pants to perform specific patient care functions.
Just like smart clothes, Jewellery has gone smart as well.
In a fast changing fashion world, women’s no more need to wear bulky non-fashionable smart watches, fitness trackers or smart glasses. Now they have the choice of aesthetically appealing gold, silver or titanium technology enabled smart rings, bracelets, necklaces, and clip-ons.
These stylish gadgets does all activity monitoring like any other smart watch or fitness tracker. Smart Jewellery is capable of automatic activity monitoring, sleep tracking, voice recording, blood pressure monitoring, playing music, heart rate monitoring etc. It provides a detailed insight of activities on the connected device to analyze progress.
Hearables are most popular wearable devices after smart watches. The global hearable devices market is expected to reach USD 23.24 Billion by 2023.
Hearables or Smart headphones are technically advanced, electronic in-ear-devices designed for multiple purposes ranging from wireless transmission to communication, medical monitoring and fitness tracking.
Application of hearables is tremendous and people most benefit from these devices are fitness coaches, personal assistants, language translators, music enthusiasts and ones with hearing impairment.
Some of benefits and features of hearable devices are:
Wearables are available to be worn on almost any part of your body. Google was the first to introduce smart glass named Google Glass, 5 years ago. Google Glass is a wearable, voice-controlled Android device that looks like eyeglasses and displays information directly in the user's field of vision. Google glass is equipped with built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology and a camera for taking photographs and videos.
There are many more entrants with much more advance features and functionalities today. Brands like Microsoft, Samsung, Vuzix, Sony, Epson, Carl Zeiss and more are all giving the budding tech niche a try.
Like other smart watches, smart glasses may collect data from internal or external sensors, transmit the data to smart phones and computers via wireless technologies like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS. Some smart glasses models, also feature full activity tracker capability, virtual augmenting and much more.
Head-mounted display, HMD is a display device worn on head or as a part of helmet, over the eyes that can project images and videos and the wearer see the image/ video as augmented reality.
VR headsets or HMDs have real-world applications in aviation, engineering, medicine, military training, and gaming.
There are two main types of HMDs, monocular and binocular. Monocular head-mounted displays have display in front of one eye and binocular HMDs have display together with a lenses in front of both eyes. An example of the monocular display is Google Glass.
There are also Optical head-mounted displays (OHMDs) which reflect the projected images and the wearer see them as augmented reality.
Some popular consumer versions of virtual reality (VR) headsets are Oculas VR, HTC Vive, Sony PlayStation VR, Samsung Gear VR, etc.
Wearable cameras are high in action among wearable enthusiasts. If you want to do dabble in lifecasting then there are plethora of smart wearable action cameras available to record all your live action and adventure with up to 4K video quality.
These wearable devices has in-built memory card to store all your action videos and image and come with WIFI and Bluetooth features to connect to an app on your smartphone. Some live action cameras can even sync with Facebook, YouTube, or Google Hangouts so you can live stream your videos and photos.
These rugged devices also come with waterproof capabilities for underwater recording.
Location trackers are smart devices with GPS capability which transmits the location of wearer to a connected device.
GPS trackers have various applications in practical life and can help in tracking missing items or pets or kids or in tracking stolen vehicle.
Gesture control wearables are the latest entrants in the wearable market. Gesture control devices are gadgets that can read human body movements and transfer data to wirelessly connected device for carrying out hands-free control. Users can use simple gestures to control or interact with devices without physically touching them.
Implantables are medical devices which can be surgically inserted under the skin for controlled release of a drug or sense parameters of various diseases and either transfer data to a remote center or direct the patient to take a specific action. Implantables are becoming a valuable medical tool for physicians.
Body Sensors are part of implantable or sensor nodes that can communicate among themselves and also with other smart devices. The sensor nodes have computation, storage, wireless transmission, and sensing capabilities.
Some of the common physiological sensed data include body motion, skin temperature, heart rate, skin conductivity, brain and muscle activities, and biomarkers.
Along with smart clothing, body sensors are the most popular implantables currently available in the market.