4 Wearable Technology Innovations Transforming Data

As the smartphone and tablet markets become increasingly crowded — major technology companies are turning their attention and ambitions to wearables. Of course, as the smartphone revolutionised data collection, the wearable market presents a similar opportunity. But, it is those who are able to creatively collect, transform and use this data that will excel.

The first question to answer is: which technologies are here to stay, and which are just noise? Though there is no way to accurately predict where this emerging market will land — it is possible to pinpoint key contenders through their approach to data.

Creative use of data will help distinguish true wearable technology contenders from the impending crowd.

After all, with the new opportunities come a vast amount of ethical considerations. The following five wearable technologies are those that, even in this early stage, generate practical and tangible value through the data they produce.

1. Fitbit Fitness Trackers

Since its launch in 2010, this go-to fitness accessory has enjoyed an astronomical rise to success. Within the first 5 years of launch, Fitbit has sold over 10.9 million devices, equating to $1.8 billion of sales. Those facts alone show there is no doubting the public demand for wearable fitness trackers.

The FitBit Companion App

A significant portion of Fitbit’s success can be attributed to its integration into day-to-day life. This is not a gym-only accessory. The companion app tracks and displays steps, burnt calories, heart rate, sleeping patterns and more, plotted across a timeline of each day. Users can quickly identify active periods of their daily routines, as well as areas of improvement.

This is what differentiates Fitbit from other fitness trackers. While the data it collects is nothing new — the practical element of the product, combined with competitive elements that compare user data with friends and family blends ease-of-use with gamification to increase consumer appeal.

The possibilities that this approach offers could radically transform how consumers perceive fitness. By extending the product’s gamified elements, Fitbit is in a position to create global benchmarks, competitions and motivate users with real-time, crowd sourced comparisons. However, as with any innovation, such a move would drive ethical considerations around data privacy, sensitivity and security.

Only when consumer regulations recognise and address the disparity between private and shared access to wearable data, will fitness trackers be able to further expand and create a truly global network.

2. Under Armour Smart T-Shirts

Compared to the day-to-day movement tracked by Fitbit, Under Armour’s smart shirts on the opposite end of the fitness tracking spectrum.

The Under Armour brand was started in 1996 by University of Maryland student Kevin Plank In his grandmothers basement, Kevin had the initial aim of making durable specialist sports clothing that would keep athletes cool and dry in any condition.

Of course, since then Under Armour has grown into one of the world’s largest sports clothing and accessory brands. The company positions itself as a lifestyle brand for the serious athlete, a message reinforced by the launch of the E39 shirt series, which has since been adopted by a host of sports teams across the globe.

These state of the art smart shirts provide athletes and sports clubs an in-depth understanding of body mechanics. The detailed, accurate breakdown of biometric data such as heart rate, breathing patterns analyses peak performance, aiding in the identification of issues and potential improvements. Understanding data in such detail has allowed sports clubs to develop personalised training plans, driving athletes to consistently perform better.

But sport is only one application of the technology that powers the E39 shirt. Developed in partnership with Zephyr, the same technology is widely used within the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command and first responder units to increase the effectiveness of training regimes and enhance candidate selection.

3. Disney Playmation

Disney Playmation is a surprisingly nuanced, connected wearable experience. It combines physical smart objects with wearable technology to blend imagination and active play. A companion app delivers missions that must be completed by physical activity measured by the smart objects and wearables. In an age where screen-time is a constant concern for parents — Playmation certainly appeals to an underserved market.

But Playmation is much more than a simple toy. It represents a framework for how IoT devices and internet connected wearables can create a complex, yet ultimately practical ecosystem. As with many new markets before it, a key barrier for widespread adoption of wearable technology will be interoperability. Until multi-device exchange of data is more prevalent, wearable devices will be severely limited in scope.

Disney Playmation is more than a toy — it’s a framework for #wearable M2M communication.

This is especially true of devices which will handle healthcare related data. Improper timing of data and premature termination of connections pose huge risks to efficient M2M communication. Disney Playmation, however, is proof that wearables can reliably operate within the context of an IoT network. In fact, 74% of consumers believe that wearable sensors will help aid interaction with other physical objects by 2020 — highlighting the importance of early network experimentation.

4. Bio-wearables

Breaking down the barrier between wearable technology and biological enhancement are biowarables, the largely conceptual but increasingly possible market for miniscule invasive & non-invasive technology. The two key areas currently generating interest are implanted RFID chips, and electronic tattoos.

Electronic tattoos, such as the ones prototyped by Chaotic Moon, utilise a low power microcontroller and electroconductive paint to collect and transmit data to a secure device where it can be analysed or read. Examples of proposed uses include health monitoring, credit card replacement, tracking soldiers or even monitoring environmental factors.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Brian Litt, a neurologist and bioengineer, supports the case for such wearables and suggests that the potential medical uses could include providing diabetics with live information about blood sugar level, insulin levels and more — enabling patient self-care & management.

While the applications of electronic tattoos are far reaching, the uses of implanted RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) chips are significantly more limited. Unlike bio-tattoos, RFID chips are unable to gather or process data, although can be utilised for identification purposes — potentially even interacting with IoT sensors for greater biometric control.

However, the limitations of RFID technology are also in part due to the ethical concerns surrounding privacy and security. Despite it’s limited application, a Code of Ethics has been issued by the American Medical Association — highlighting a number of these concerns. However, despite this, the companies experimenting with biowearables (including Motorola, the University of California and the Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) are driving the acceleration of innovation at an astonishing pace.

Concluding Thoughts

Each of these examples of wearable technologies represents a different opportunity — but combined, have the potential to create an augmented ecosystem where data is more readily available, factoring in to lifestyle, business and day-to-day decisions.

As barriers to adoption such as interoperability, data security and cost are overcome, it is likely that wearables will not only become more widespread but also integrated into a wider network of machine-to-machine communication, automating complex tasks based on previously difficult to access data.

Data alone, however, is rarely enough. While wearables are able to collect and transmit information from new data sources, the development of applications that handle, interpret and use that data are also vital. Find out how our low-code CommonTime Infinity platform enables everybody to develop and deploy applications that utilise open source, wearable & IoT data alike.

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