A Guide to Wearable Technology
Wearable technology is one of the fastest growing sectors of the wider technology industry, outpacing the development of smartphones. Wearables are everywhere today and range from fitness trackers to highly-advanced sports and smart watches.
The sector is growing so quickly that it has even spawned an entire “hearables” subcategory of tech placed in the ear which delivers music, and also offers access to smart assistants.
What is wearable technology?
Wearable technology taps into the connected self – it comes with smart sensors that track our movements and biometrics, often using Bluetooth to sync wirelessly to a smartphone. Others also rely on Wi-Fi connectivity and standalone 4G LTE data connections.
Wearables use sensors to connect to you as a person, helping you to achieve goals such as staying fit and active, losing weight, being more organised or tracking your overall mental and physical health.
How do you wear wearable technology?
The early generations of wearables saw devices clipped to our bodies, as the prime focus was tracking movement through motion sensors. However, advancements brought a widerange of powerful sensors, which require direct contact with the skin. Thus, the tech gravitated to other body parts: the wrists, fingers, chest, forearms, ears, eyes, forehead, and temple.
What kinds of wearable technologies exist?
There are multiple categories of wearable technology. Some products manage to exist in more than one, while a few others define categories all their own.
Smartwatches are wrist-worn devices that connect to your mobile phone to act as mini-windows onto your digital life. The mighty Apple Watch now dominates the landscape. It brings notifications and calls from the iPhone screen and tracks your physical activity. There’s independent GPS for location services and an LTE model.
Beyond the Apple Watch, Google’s Wear OS is the equivalent for Android phone users. Watches like the Skagen Falster 3 offer slim design and great for men’s and women’s wrists alike.Fitbit is also in on the act with the excellent Fitbit Versa 2, which is heavy on health features with blood oxygen tracking and top-notch sleep tracking.
Other Apple Watch rivals are going their own route. Samsung uses its own Tizen OS on wearables like the Galaxy Watch Active 2.
Fitness trackers remain very popular among people who want to track progress through heart rate, steps, and estimated calorie burn, while receiving some smartphone notifications.They’re perfect if you don’t/want super-advanced metrics provided by sports watches, or don’t want a mini smartphone like the Apple Watch. They also offer longer battery life than smartphones.
The latest devices like the Fitbit Charge 3 offer heart-rate tracking, sleep tracking, waterproofing and swim tracking, smartphone notifications and, importantly, a seven-day battery life.
For those active types who love running, cycling, swimming or even golf, a dedicated sports watch should be at the top of your wearable wish list.
These devices should have GPS with heart rate tracking and associated insights. This data can provide another level of information about your chosen sportand take your training to the next level.
The fastest-emerging segment of the wearable market is hearables, which are worn in the ear. The most popular example is Apple’s Air Pods, those true wireless earphones that offer quick access to the Siri voice assistant. Similarly, any pair of head/earphones that interacts with a voice assistant like Alexa and the Google Assistant is considered a hearable device.
There are also live translation tools like Google’s Pixel Buds and the Waverley Labs Pilot, smart hearing aids like the NuhearaIQbuds Boost, and the Lifebeam Vi headset for on-board virtual run coaching. The Bose Frames for example, combine bone conduction audio, augmented reality visuals and access to smart assistants all in a pair of sunglasses.
What has wearable technology still got to get right?
Although wearables have improved exponentially in the last few years, the journey is far from complete. The Apple Watch, for example, still lacks sleep tracking nous, making its pitch as a holistic wellness tracking device highly questionable. Until battery life exceeds the need to charge nightly, that isn’t changing. The key to that could be the rumoured deployment of less power-hungry micro LED displays.
Hearables are showing promise, but we want hands-free support for personal assistants like Siri and true real-time language translation without needing a companion app or without lag.
Overall, we are only scratching the surface when it comes to biometrics. Sensors are giving us access to more data and it is increasingly accurate. However, the true value comes through the ability to interpret that data with actionable insights. This myriad of data points can be married more effectively to provide a greater overall picture of our health.
Wearables move technology from the screen into real-world contexts, presenting new and unique questions to consider as well as challenges to overcome.
Wearable Technologies at MPH Group
At MPH Group you can find RealWare, MagicLeap and HTC – wearable technologies that can help with solutions to real-world business problems in a range of different industries.
To find out more about how our wearable technology solutions can help your organisation, contact us today.