February 24, 2015

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What to Wear: “Wearables of the Future”

When Taylor Swift sings that famous song, “What to wear”, she sings of our never-ending fascination with wearables. Luckily, the near future holds greater promises of better and smarter wearables than her plain simple blue jeans and Abercrombie T-shirts.

Wearables are sensor devices that are worn on the physical body. A wearable device can be worn by someone while his/her different vital signs are being tracked and transmitted to another location for various applications. To make a wearable sensor valuable, it must be integrated into a larger system. Three components make a wearable system:

  1. the sensor
  2. the transmission of data being recorded by the sensor
  3. the actual display of that data, which should turn the data into actionable information

Smart wearables use local, high resolution data to make decisions and relay actionable information to decision-makers in a timely and bandwidth-friendly manner. An integrated system - Physiological Status Monitoring (PSM), provides command and control passive knowledge of force readiness, and exception-based actionable information when indications are trending negative or have reached emergency alert levels.

Wearable technology is related to both the field of ubiquitous computing, and the history and development of wearable computers. The calculator watch, introduced in the 1980s, was one of the original pieces of widespread worn electronics.  Wearable technology is on the rise in personal and business use.

Some of the exciting innovations in wearables are:

  1. Smart watches - the breakout category that will finally ignite the wearable computing market. They have a health monitoring system, control mechanisms, and alerting devices. They have your tasks mapped; communications sorted, and even act as electronic money.
  2. Glasses - come with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD). A touchpad allows users to control the device by swiping through a timeline-like interface displayed on the screen. Sliding backward shows current events, such as weather, and sliding forward shows past events, such as phone calls, photos, circle updates, etc. They have various applications in healthcare, media, journalism, and the automobile industry.
  3. Helmets - with head-up-displays just like a fighter pilot. Give riders detailed road layouts, GPS mapping, rear camera views, and speed and distance metrics to boot.
  4. Rings - syncs with your mobile to buzz you with all the usual notifications plus Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and even Tinder.
  5. Wrist-Mounted Drone - with a camera that leaps into the air to grab your action selfie before landing back where it started, boomerang style.
  6. E-textiles - clothes with sensors that glow with your thought patterns.
  7. Augmented reality headsets - with enhanced audio/visuals for better sensory experiences.
  8. Headphones - track your fitness metrics straight from your lugholes.
  9. Wristbands - for contactless health tracking and electronic payment systems.
  10. Body suits - consist of a belt (with a central control unit) together with modular units – haptic feedback gloves, vest and trousers – and will be fully compatible with existing virtual reality headsets.

There are some other very important wearable ideas taking shape:

  1. Kineseowear - a stick-on, artificial muscle that could do anything from tapping you on the left shoulder to convey the next turn dictated by your GPS, to supporting your muscles during an intense butterfly lap in the pool. It creates a physical bridge between your body and information of any sort.
  2. Ouijiband - an electronic counterweight strapped to your wrist that uses a gyroscope and a gimbal to sense your fine motor movements and, when necessary, smooth them out a bit.
  3. Snapchat IRL - a necklace that senses the IR light emitted by cameras during their autofocus sequence, and in response, fires back a blinding counter-flash to protect your anonymity.
  4. Lalala - a Bose noise-canceling headphone for anything you want to listen to in life, and with motion-tracking capabilities inside (assumedly, through an integrated technology like infrared tracking). You can simply point to someone you’d like to hear better in a room and every other voice will fade away.

Suddenly, wearing is more than just covering your body. The scope has now widened manifold and covers a lot of metrics. How will it affect enterprise? Some observers are saying that enterprise adoption is all but inevitable, and will usher in a new era of “Bring your own wearable device,” or “BYOWD”, that’ll only accelerate as these devices become more widespread. 

A lot of things would change, and for better. But the final words of the Taylor Swift song will still ring true:

Peace, love

One thing leads into another

Dream big, aim small

Man you gotta love her

She's got her hopes up

Got 'em up to there

She's got her hopes up

Got 'em up to there.

Wondering what to wear

Ohh, oh, oh.

Wondering what to wear