Fitbit, Google Glass, Apple Watch: wonders of wearable technology, or a passing fad? Find out what one of the world’s most experienced wearable experts thinks…
You don’t need us to tell you that smartwatches and other connected wearables are a big deal. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve either already got something like the new Apple Watch Series 4 on your wrist, or you’re looking into what one can do for you. The question, then, is no longer ‘will wearable tech become widespread?’ – it’s ‘what’s next?’
To find out, and to learn where wearables are heading, we’ve been quizzing João Bocas – AKA The Wearables Expert. Here’s what tomorrow’s wearable tech will look like, and what it’ll do for your digital life…
Today’s wearable landscape
As a thought leader in wearables, digital health, IoT, and healthcare innovation, João has 25 years of hands-on experience, and has become a Top 100 Global Health Influencer as a result. In other words? He knows his stuff when it comes to the humble smartwatch:
“I really believe that wearable technology is here to stay,” João says, “and is only gaining more and more momentum. In my eyes, the intersection of humanity and wearable tech is one without parallel in the tech world – today’s wearables can assist in getting human data points and insights that offer immense value.”
Of course, extracting those “human data points and insights,” as João puts it, is what the likes of the Apple Watch and Fitbit have been doing for a number of years now – and doing so in a pretty stylish way. But, for those yet to jump onboard the wearable train, what’s out there? And which device would suit your needs?
Here are the three pillars of the wearable space as we close out 2018:
For now, smartwatches are the de facto, all-encompassing wearable device type. Designed like ‘conventional’ timepieces but packed with extras, their digital watchfaces usually hide a wealth of sensors and smarts underneath. It’s not uncommon for smartwatches to sport an optical heart rate sensor, GPS, or cellular connectivity – as with the Apple Watch Series 4 – that make tracking your activities and keeping you connected as simple as possible.
2. Fitness trackers
If smartwatches are the ‘jack-of-all-trades’, then fitness trackers are almost certainly the ‘master-of-one’, reserved for those with a keen interest in a healthier lifestyle. Typically strapped to your wrist just like a smartwatch, fitness trackers, like the Fitbit Charge 3, can track the number of steps you’ve taken, floors climbed, how many calories you’ve burned, and heart rate. While some do offer smartphone notifications, they’re a more focussed class of device, often boasting a longer battery life because there’s less going on under the hood when compared to smartwatches.
3. Smart rings
It seems that, for now, wrist-worn devices are king of the wearables world, but there are other players in the space; wearable rings have been growing in popularity this year, with the likes of Motiv, NFC Ring, and Oura Ring putting forth cool new use cases. Motiv is, essentially, a fitness tracker that’ll keep tabs on your steps, distance, and heart rate. NFC Ring, meanwhile, uses the eponymous tech to unlock things like phones and doors, while Oura Ring aims to help wearers get a good night’s kip thanks to sleep tracking and smart analysis.
They’re all pretty stellar options. But, while we’re primarily using today’s crop of wearable devices to track our 10,000 step-a-day progress or to swipe away email alerts, João thinks there are so many more use cases bubbling under the surface…
The future of wearable technology
“The untapped potential of wearable tech is huge,” João says, “from diagnosis of health conditions, to enabling real change in human behaviour. As an example, Apple recently demonstrated its interest in the consumer health market with the launch of medical features that will impact us all, and at a huge scale.”
That’s no exaggeration. If you missed the news, the new Apple Watch Series 4 is the world’s first consumer-level wearable with the ability to take a wristbound ECG, opening the door to proactive health alerts that could help you (or your doctor) spot the symptoms of Atrial Fibrilation early. Meanwhile, devices like the V by Vodafone V-SOS Band – designed for at-risk family members – can automatically detect falls and call for help.
These new features are cool steps in a future-facing direction, but what shape will tomorrow’s wearable tech take? There are a lot of variables at play, but João thinks the future lies in shrinking down hardware to even tinier proportions:
“I predict that in five to ten years time, the wrist wearables that we see and use today could become obsolete,” he says. “Emerging trends show us that innovations in sensors and smart fabrics, implants into the human body in a form of small chip, and even digestibles like smart pills will all come into play.”
Current front runners in this space include Australian startup Wearable X, whose smart yoga pants will vibrate specific muscles when you enter the correct pose, and Google’s project Jacquard, which weaves mobile and media controls directly into the fabric:
But the sky’s the limit; as with any new tech trend, João thinks the goal is to make wearable tech so everpresent that the devices themselves stop being a novelty:
“The future is very exciting for the wearable technology industry, and I’d like to see more smart devices combined with clothing and other essentials like pens, hats, gloves and jackets soon. I believe,” he says in closing, “that wearables’ true potential will only be fulfilled when they’re part of us, and part of our daily lives.”
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