Over the past few years, as a collective society, we have continued to integrate technology in our daily lives. Although, in recent years, it seems to be happening at a more rapid pace, especially as the line between man and machine continues to blur. For instance, wearable tech appears to be quickly growing as a hot new tech trend.
As new electronic gadgets are introduced to market, many consumers are finding themselves more heavily attached to and/or dependent on many of these innovations. As an example, all we have to do is look to how mobile has grown exponentially in terms of sales. As of October 2014, we have finally reached a point where there are now more mobile devices than humans on the planet. 1
It is not uncommon to see people using more than one device at a time.
How Far Will the Wearable Electronics Market Go?
Imagine how much more those numbers could soar if wearable tech takes off?
If 2014's trends are any indicator, the next big thing on the consumer market will indeed be wearable tech. While it is a relatively new trend, gadgets such as smartwatches and Google Glass (inevitably after it comes out of beta mode), will steadily continue to make inroads to becoming routine items in today's world.
It doesn't stop there. At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, it appeared people will have the opportunity to become even more closely acquainted with wearable tech in the near future. There were a number of gadgets that were hot items and subsequently heavily promoted in the media in late 2013 and throughout 2014.
New wearable products showcased at the 2014 show included "smart bras" that will tell you when you've eaten too much, socks that monitor your exercise and chest bands that are able to track your heartbeat, to name a few. The following is an overview of these products and more.
The 'Smart Bra'
Microsoft has experienced incredible growth since its inception and, in recent years, has given us a glimpse outside the Windows of what the company can (or would like to) do. One of this year's most publicized items at the aforementioned CES was the "smart bra."
Researchers at Microsoft, who collaborated with the University of Rochester (New York) and the University of Southampton (United Kingdom), developed a device that could potentially find its way into several markets. The device is a sensor that is integrated in a bra, and monitors sweat and heart activity. Reportedly, it then detects (in conjunction with other technologies) if the wearer is turning to food as a habit or for emotional support. Through a mobile app, the bra's system detects patterns and follows emotions. If the smart bra detects either of these, it gives off a signal the wearer is overeating.
This product was reportedly moving into further production and research to see if there is a way to develop the technology to be more predictive and personalized. If successful, at some point down the road the technology could show up in the form of a bracelet for both men and women to wear, reported Wired.2
Will store displays selling bras of the future eventually all have a "smart" component?
Hardware maker, Heapsylon, showcased a couple of wearables at the CES event. An item gaining attention is its "smart" socks. According to TechCrunch, this device is called the Sensoria Sock, and is able to detect errors made by runners.3 It seemingly allows the wearer to identify problems, through real-time auditory feedback, and corrects them, thus avoiding injury. Eager consumers won't have to wait long for this product, it's was scheduled to hit the market in March 2014 (a web search shows this store is currently open for business).
Traditional socks are still pretty mainstream, but will that change in the years to come?
A company called Under Armour developed a chest strap that tracks the wearer's heartbeat. Aimed at athletes, it is publicized by the company as a "first-of-its-kind performance heart rate monitor." The device monitors the wearer's heart rate, tracks calories burned, and follows "real time intensity," with any workout, any sport.
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RunPhones Head Band
Most, if not all, walkers and runners have probably experienced the problem of ear buds falling out while exercising. AcousticSheep's RunPhones promoted the company has a solution. Its product, a wearable item that has earphones embedded in a headband, is advertised as having a softer and more comfortable fit. Options are reported to include a wired and a wireless version that is compatible with most other portable music gadgets. (Note: Since the hype earlier this year, this product did make it to market, as the company's website is up and running at time of publish).
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Other Upcoming Wearable Trends?
Additional wearable items showcased include a sensor attached to a glove that conducts an analysis on a golfer's swing. Other companies are developing attachments that can be embedded or attached to various types of clothing or body parts. Some products, as listed by CNBC, shows actual clothing that can charge a smartphone through wearable solar panels. 6 It looks like a space-age outfit you've perhaps envisioned in science fiction. Another product promotes your own air-purifying bracelet that recycles air. Or how about an outfit that lights up when someone is looking at you?
The fashion industry is also reportedly heavily embracing wearable tech.
But can tech ever truly be fashionable and take off in any serious way? Some media outlets have been sharing images of clothing decorated with LED lights. 7 Will this be the clothing of the future, wear your own flashlight? Although it seems jewelry may be a potential option since a few of these gadgets have seemingly made it to market serving various types of functions.
BTW, if wearable tech isn't enough to whet your digital appetite, you can always consider an Internet-connected toothbrush that links to your smartphone to analyze how well you brush. 9
That about sums up some of the biggest wearable tech stories in 2014, but who knows what the tech gurus will have up their collective sleeves for 2015? What gadgets would you like to see come to fruition?
Update February 2016: Wearable tech is still moving ahead at rapid speed. Products, such as the Apple Watch and FitBit were extremely popular with consumers during the past year. The numbers in 2015 say almost 40 million adults in the United States, aged 18 and older, used wearable gadgets. This was reportedly a 57.7 increase over 2014's figures. 10
Industry forecasters are projecting popular products in 2016 will become even more sophisticated. Products to be on the lookout for include an increase in "smart" clothing, sleep trackers, activity trackers and other fitness-related devices to be worn. And that line between humans and tech will continue to mesh as IoT goes full-force ahead. At the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in 2016, in addition to the wearables, virtual reality and augmented reality headsets and smartglasses appeared to be what's going to continue to be on the near horizon.
It's amazing to think what life will look like a decade from now. What do you think?