Wearable technology, wearables, fashionable technology, wearable devices, tech togs, or fashion electronics are clothing and accessories incorporating computer and advanced electronic technologies. The designs often incorporate practical functions and features, but may also have a purely critical or aesthetic agenda.
Wearable technology is related to both the field of ubiquitous computing and the history and development of wearable computers. With ubiquitous computing, wearable technology share the vision of interweaving technology into the everyday life, of making technology pervasive and interaction friction less. Through the history and development of wearable computing, this vision has been both contrasted and affirmed.
Affirmed through the multiple projects directed at either enhancing or extending functionality of clothing, and as contrast, most notably through Steve Mann’s concept of sousveillance. The history of wearable technology is influenced by both of these responses to the vision of ubiquitous computing.
Innovations and More
The calculator watch, introduced in the 1980s, was one original piece of widespread worn electronics. Ilya Fridman designed a Bluetooth headset into a pair of earrings with a hidden microphone. The Spy TIE includes a color video camera and USB Heating Gloves keep hands warm when plugged in.
Twitter users can wear a “Pocket Tweet” using a Java application and cutting out and applying a Twitter text bubble to a person’s shirt, one example of Do-it-yourself wearable tech that was part of an art exhibit for the Wearable Technology AIR project in spring 2009. ZED-phones stitch headphones into beanies and headbands allowing riders, snowboarders, Drivers, and Runners to stay connected, hands-free, always.
On March 19, 2014, Motorola unveiled Moto 360 smartwatch powered by Android Wear, a modified version of Android designed specifically for smartwatches and other wearables.
Wearable technology has applications in monitoring and real-time feedback for athletes as well. The decreasing cost of processing power and other components is encouraging widespread adoption and availability. According to Forbes, 71% of 16-to-24-year-olds want wearable tech.
Current Tech and Next Wave
Wearable Technology is on the rise in personal and business use. In healthcare, many examples exist to date. Google Glass is a much-noted device, offering promising technology but to many, pricey and awkward in use. Smartwatches so far have not been deployed much, as limited functionality and clunky aesthetics may get in the way. Some other devices are already in use, others still on the horizon—that wearables could be useful in professional and patient settings.
Medical Professionals such as Google Glass Surgeon have now organised themselves in WATCH-Society the Wearable Technology in Healthcare Society, in order to search for collaboration and valid use of wearable technology in healthcare. The Society is a not-for-profit organization and open to all envisioning co-creation, collaboration and scrutinization in order to help healthcare from multiple professional viewpoints.
The next wave of wearable devices expected to hit the market will be smartwatches. ABI Research forecasts 1.2 million smartwatches will be shipped in 2013 due to the high penetration of smartphones in many world markets, the wide availability and low cost of MEMS sensors, energy efficient connectivity technologies such as Bluetooth 4.0, and a flourishing app ecosystem.
Benefits for Individuals and Industries
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers: “Our research shows that there is a wearable future around the corner, it’s more immediate than we think—and it can dramatically reshape the way we live and do business.” A PwC study revealed that 77% of respondents felt an important benefit of wearable technology is its potential to make us more efficient and productive at work.
A PwC report titled ‘The Wearable Future’ states: “The potential benefits of wearable devices are manifold. Among the workforce, devices can be used as training agents, speeding up the onboarding process through real-time feedback. In retail, wearable devices can upend point of sale processes, improve customer service throughout the store and speed up purchasing. In manufacturing, wearable tech can help expedite production by creating hands-free guidance tools. In service industries, wearable devices can speed access to information in real time and enable seamless action.
“In medical centers, wearable devices can improve accuracy of information, streamline procedures and increase clinical trials. And through fitness devices and corresponding incentives, wearable technology can drive significant decreases in health care costs. In all of these cases, effective implementation of wearable technology stands to benefit both the user and the company driving adoption, increasing efficiency and efficacy.
“For wearables to succeed, they don’t just need to deliver the right information—they need to deliver the right insight, and help transform that insight into action. And yet for all the concern, consumer appetite for revealing personal information is changing—they are growing more comfortable with the risks as the rewards become more appealing.”