Mobile handsets have oft been cited as the fastest growing area of technology in the current era. However, there is another arm of development which is fast approaching the same levels of investment and development, and that is wearable technology. Arguably, wearable tech goes hand in hand with the exponential growth of the Internet of Things (see our article on the IoT here) and our persistent need to be connected.
There is not just one area of the market that wearable technology is developed for. It is a highly versatile area and spans from smart watches and fitness trackers, to virtual reality headsets and ‘hearables’. There are now even smart clothes which are available on the open market. So what are they? In this article we seek to explore what’s popular in this exciting world.
A smart watch is a wearable device which is designed to look just like a standard watch but can do so much more. Whilst digital watches have been around for decades, these are eternally more useful in their practical applications. Most smart watches link directly to the user’s mobile phone, and act as a conduit for the phone’s functionality. The wearer can see notifications, read messages, make and receive calls via the watch and have GPS functionality too. Figures estimate that in 2018 global sales for this technology had hit 131 million units.
A direct descendant and iteration of the smart watch, fitness trackers are massively in fashion and widely used and distributed. Fitness trackers measure information such as heart rate, steps and estimated calorie burn, and still parse notifications from the user’s handset. They’re the perfect compromise for those who want to enjoy a stripped-down version of a smartphone without the constant barrage of functionality. So popular are these items, that some life insurance companies have incorporated them into their policies to promote a healthier lifestyle, with policy holders who succeed in reaching exercise goals seeing a reduction in their monthly premiums as a reward. Vitality is one such firm of note.
Head Mounted Displays
These are generally broken down into two areas: augmented reality and virtual reality headsets. Augmented reality is an exciting field arguably lead at the current time by Google’s so named ‘glass’. In wearing the glasses, the user is presented with information and data via a heads-up display built into the frame and lenses of the glasses. Information such as directions, images and even articles about landmarks in proximity can be beamed directly to the user to enhance their experience in a place or attraction.
By contrast, virtual reality headsets are designed more for a completely immersive experience They will fully remove you from your surroundings and place you into a completely digital world. Primarily these are used in the gaming world, allowing the user to have a complete 360-degree view when connected to a games console. Further afield, they have valuable training applications, whereby the user can be placed into a simulated situation to enhance their learning. They are also now being used in the treatment of PTSD by giving people exposure therapy.
Undoubtedly the most well-known hearable is Apple’s AirPods – the small and completely wireless earbuds which when worn can receive signals via Bluetooth and can also give the user access to virtual assistants such as Siri or Alexa when used in conjunction with a mobile device. Not just for entertainment purposes though, similar devices have been developed which are smart hearing aids, such as the Nuheara IQbuds Boost which show wearable technology at its most useful and beneficial.