‘Wearables’ is the new buzz term in the world of emerging mega trends. Almost every trend report forecasts ‘wearables’ as the next frontier in technology and the way we make use of technology. Wearable technology/ computing is a new phenomenon (albeit not so new) which sees the world of computing and wearable devices finally come together to provide practical functions and features that seamlessly integrate the two. In fact, when we look at wearble technology, the calculator watch is a prime example of how this thinking has been existent since the 80’s. Now that prototypes have been developed,refined and Google glass has truly demonstrated the mass appeal of the potential wearables have – the real work now begins to prove just how exciting these products can be.
Why it’s important?
Now that wearables are deemed as the next leap into technological achievement; many developers are looking to take full advantage of this cusp of opportunity. It extends the concept of ubiquitous computing which advocates for computing to be an integral function of our lives, also known as ambient computing. Devices, whether be clothes, watches or gadgets will now merge our physical world with computing capability to provide high level sensory analysis almost giving humans a “sixth sense”. On a more philosophical level, wearables will showcase how technology is increasingly becoming an extension of ourselves.
While at the practical level, wearable technology will introduce new uncomfortable realities, such as what it means to our security. According to Doreen Bolsch of Polshy Inc, “wearable technology will unlock a massive amount of new, personal data. As consumers wear technology — whether Google Glass, FitBit or other devices — there will be a tremendous influx of big data in real time”. This data deluge again threatens principles of privacy and increases the opportunity of surveillance.
Most fundamentally, this technology and whether it does get mainstream adoption has the potential to change our worlds as we knew them and therefore it is as important as any of the trends that have become before. This trend will have direct impact on us and our physical realm.
A wearable tech revolution is on the rise. This is effectively a new market taking shape. The likes of Google have established a whole new division in Google Android Wear to focus on this new market. Android Wear is Google’s Android operating system designed specifically for smartwatches and wearables. Wearables are entering the mainstream this year, spearheaded by Android Wear.
Wearables have also begun to revolutionise industries. The medical industry is one that has witnessed and seen the real potential for wearables to change the complexion of its industry. A key example of this is in a new innovation called “LifeTiles”. Life tiles is the perfect manifestation of how the medical and health industry has seen the benefits and opportunities inherent in wearble technology. The idea is simple “wearing your doctor”. LifeTiles are a wearable kit of sensors for monitoring individual health. These stylish sensors, which could be worn as part of a bracelet or necklace will be designed to noninvasively monitor the user’s physicality and environment and send personalized feedback analysed by algorithms in a cloud. Medical wearables can monitor patients post-hospitalization, track the movements of elderly patients and allow patients to send information wirelessly to their doctors, including vital signs, glucose levels and ECG readings and generally providing vital medical data.
The Pioneers & Global Hotspots?
The global hotspots for these technologies are manufacturers, developers and brands that are pioneering this trend moving it from niche applications and early adopters into mainstream consciousness.
Many international brands such as Nike, Apple, Samsung and Google are all developing products to satisfy consumers growing awareness and demand for new products. Some of the key wearables that have hit the mass market are the Samsung Galaxy Gear watch and the soon to be launched new Apple iWatch.
We have also witnessed some nano-coating technology from P2i that has been applied to clothing from Timberland and Kangol. Treated clothing keeps the wearer dry by repelling water.
By: Saint-Francis Tohlang
Saint-Francis is a cultural student of life; keenly perceptive and observant of shapers of culture and the post-modern climate. He is obsessed with contemporary culture and the human carnival. His research areas and interest are media markets and strategies, communications, youth culture, mobile culture and the online media ecology strongly rooted in an anthropological perspective. Tohlang has an MA in Media from UCT.
Image credit: Yves Béhar and Fuseproject for TIME