Like 5G, the Internet of Anything/Everything (IoX), smart cities/homes/vehicles, mmWave, and more, wearables have suffered from the same hype of over-promising and under-delivering. While all the rage, Fitbit and similar devices were ultimately discovered to be far from truly accurate and mostly novel.
Sure, they had some value, the interface between the wearable and whatever smart device they paired with offered a convenience factor that certainly made some things easier. But mostly it was a novelty with relatively poor reliability and accuracy.
But, like the aforementioned technologies and platforms, 2018 is going to change that – or at least get wearable on the practical path with more realistic, real-world implementations.
While wearables have certainly found some niche markets in areas such as consumer and medical, by and large, the smart wearables market has been slow to materialize. Now that much of the hype and unmet expectations are behind it, the time has come for wearables to start a new journey in segmented areas with real growth potential.
In the past several quarters, smart watches have lead the pack in growth numbers. But around the corner are devices that will have cellular connectivity and voice enablement.
On the medical scene, wearables will have a more integrated role in body function and better connectivity to core health systems. One way they will do that is with the various renditions of reality (virtual, augmented, merged), which will significantly alter the way medical care is provided and delivered, thanks to advancements in micro-displays and optics, as well as cutting-edge user interfaces such as voice control, haptics, and gesture recognition.
On the reality side, augmented, virtual and mixed reality devices are blurring the boundaries between the real and digital worlds, which is bringing on line cutting-edge content in sectors such as in gaming, training and conferencing. Expect that to expand to smart ecosystems in the near future.
The next generation of wearables will integrate flexible and stretchable electronics. These technologies have been on the edge for some time and the next couple of years will see them go mainstream. Advancements in sensors, particularly, but also in power, batteries and displays are finally enabling some of these futuristic applications. Add to that conductive inks, yarns and cabling, and these next-generation wearables will fit any requirement because wearable electronics will become flexible, stretchable, conformal and, best of all, comfortable – thanks to maturing nanotechnologies.
For the medical industry, stretchable and flexible components are especially promising because they can be placed in locations such as arteries, organs and directly on the skin. Such devices can paint a much clearer picture of the state of one’s health than previously thought possible. These advancements will scale in all segments enabling new types of wearables for a host of new applications.
Overall, progress made in at the edge of the envelope in these emerging and evolving technologies is what will re-jump start the wearables sector. Once OEMs get these technologies integrated, watch the wearables market explode in the next couple of years – finally.
Executive Editor/Applied Wireless Technology
His 20-plus years of editorial experience includes being the Editorial Director of Wireless Design and Development and Fiber Optic Technology, the Editor of RF Design, the Technical Editor of Communications Magazine, Cellular Business, Global Communications and a Contributing Technical Editor to Mobile Radio Technology, Satellite Communications, as well as computer-related periodicals such as Windows NT. His technical writing practice client list includes RF Industries, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Agilent Technologies, Advanced Linear Devices, Ceitec, SA, and others. Before becoming exclusive to publishing, he was a computer consultant and regularly taught courses and seminars in applications software, hardware technology, operating systems, and electronics. Ernest’s client list has included Lucent Technologies, Jones Intercable, Qwest, City and County of Denver, TCI, Sandia National Labs, Goldman Sachs, and other businesses. His credentials include a BS, Electronic Engineering Technology; A.A.S, Electronic Digital Technology. He has held a Colorado Post-Secondary/Adult teaching credential, member of IBM’s Software Developers Assistance Program and Independent Vendor League, a Microsoft Solutions Provider Partner, and a life member of the IEEE. He has been certified as an IBM Certified OS2 consultant and trainer; WordPerfect Corporation Developer/Consultant and Lotus Development Corporation Developer/Consultant. He was also a first-class FCC technician in the early days of radio.
Well, I guess Apple isn’t happy just being a wearables contender. It has just filed a patent for a watch that can provide health “event detection” and medical alerts. We all knew this was coming. And I guess we all should have known that, soon or later, it would affect our health care status.
Apple claims that such devices are the perfect tool for corporate wellness programs, as well as affecting health care premiums. Apple claims their watches would detect a health occurrence or event through its sensors and feed that information to an iPhone. At the smartphone, alerts are sent to appropriate parties. This could save lives and lower premiums.
Sounds like a grand scheme. It could detect a heart attack, or an automobile accident, or a fall, for example, and start the first responder activity immediately. It could also send a variety of bio data to the appropriate agencies as they are responding so they have a much better picture of what the incident is and what condition the wearer is in.
All this sounds so grand, and a life-safety windfall…but. If anyone thinks that is all such watches will be used for, better think again. Corporations could use them to track employee’s health status. So much for feigning a temperature on opening day of baseball season. But then again, if you really are coming down with the flu at work, there is no doubt it is real.
However, my mind comes up with the dark side. Insurance companies now have a 24/7 picture of your health. (And don’t think they won’t be able to get that). Say this watch is detecting some signs that you are likely to have a heart attack shortly – blood pressure, heart rate, maybe even cholesterol down the road. And, all of sudden your health insurance is cancelled. The same scenario can happen with life insurance. Don’t wear it you say. OK, then the insurance companies simply refuse to insure you.
It could also be used as a condition of employment so the employer can control health premiums by hiring only marathon runners. Or even a screening device of potential employees. The list of potential abuses goes on. It is a bit early to opine where this may go. There is no doubt that it is a good thing, as long as it gets pigeon-holed as an optional device, if it comes to fruition.
March 3, 2016 — By now, I’m sure everyone has heard about wearables. If you think wearables are the greatest thing since Star Wars, wait until you hear about this – Move over wearables, here come swallowables (or internables). I about fell over when I heard this. Not that it isn’t a great idea, it just sounds laughable. Gotta hand it to the marketing peeps, once again.
There is no doubt that such devices are going to be one of the biggest, and most beneficial, segments of the wireless space going forward. They are relatively non-invasive, pill-like devices that one swallows — and it provides a myriad of biometric data for all types of situations, from a football player’s internal temperature to the amount of methane gas in one’s intestines. Another edge-of-the-envelope application for the world of modern wireless technology, and a new weapon in the medical arsenal.
Swallowing wireless devices isn’t all that new. We have had intestinal cameras for years now, and they have been a great aid to the medical diagnostic services (even if the inside of your colon ends up on the Internet).
But the latest advancements in miniaturization, power conservation and sensor technology have advanced internables by orders of magnitude — far beyond that of the swallowable camera.
May 28, 2015 — From time to time, it is fun to look at what is developing in this industry. Wearables are tethered to smart devices. That is because they use near-field wireless technologies. But, where this is going to hit a speed bump is the sheer number of wearables that will come on line, so much of that data will end up on Wi-Fi networks. Right now we are seeing wearables for the wrist, but, potentially, wearables can be worn all over one’s body. Read on.
And an interesting vector is that wearables of today will turn into the “disappearables” of tomorrow. Fitness bands, medical monitors, proximity sensors, will all become micro-sized in the near future. That means they will be integrated into clothing or accessories, perhaps a bangle or bead – or even something so small it is unnoticeable. There is even talk of inside the body – wow.
It makes sense, though. Today’s wearable are just the first-generation toys for the bleeding edge. The next generation is at the starting gate. Things like DASH, developed by Munich-based Bragi GmbH, which is a wireless in-ear headphone that looks like a discreet hearing aid. Packed inside is a music player, four gigabytes of storage, a microphone to take phone calls – just nod your head to accept – and sensors that monitor your position, heart rate and body temperature. I want that! But wonder about having an RF radiator that close to the brain, with no skull to absorb the rays. One of you readers give me a take on that.
January 29, 2015 — With the Cicret bracelet, Google Glass is officially history. Follow the link and you’ll see why. It even usurps the latest generation of Star Trek communicators. It is what every Millennial is salivating over (and this editor as well).
While still in conceptual stages, is this the future of smart…skin? Becomes the embodiment of what smart communicators will look like one day (just before they become embedded under the skin). And it is nothing more than a wearable bracelet integrated with the latest small cell technology; Wi-Fi, RF identification, near field communications, even DAS.
The concept isn’t even that far-fetched. The real hurdle will be to have it project onto the skin, regardless of wrist position or environment (moisture, sunlight, all the things that challenge smart screens).
This, however, really has the “cool” factor. At least until neural implants with ubiquitous wireless interconnects arrive on the scene.