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The rise of wearable technology

Diane Hall


Woman with smartwatch wearable technology

I’m someone who always feels the cold. I can feel uncomfortable in summer if there’s a breeze, and in winter, even if I have layer after layer on, I constantly get shivers up and down my back.

Scrolling through TikTok, an advert came on for a puffer-jacket style coat. Though it looked nice enough, I was ready to continue scrolling until I saw the caption—the coat was heated! Pressing a button (which I actually thought was just the logo of the designer at first glance) fired up the heating elements entwined in the puffy layers. If ever there’s a product I’m crying out for, it’s that. It wasn’t too pricey, around £80, so I’ve given some not-so-subtle hints to my husband that that’s what I’d like for my upcoming birthday.

Wearable technology (also known as ‘wearables’) is a perpetually growing market. From watches that connect with, and act as, our mobile phones, to devices that can track certain things about us—such as our heart rate, the distance we’ve walked/run, calories we’ve burned, etc.—you will find so many products of this kind out there nowadays.

Smart clothing doesn’t stop at that heated jacket I’m coveting—according to this article, you can also find smart trainers (that can track the form of runners, for example), smart shirts that can detect respiratory conditions, smart socks than can warn you of ulcers, etc., yoga pants that vibrate whilst the wearer works out to help tone your muscles, and swimsuits that can tell you when it’s time to reapply your sun tan lotion.

With some wearable innovations, companies use the data gathered as a tool for their marketing. For instance, 42Gears talks of Tommy Hilfiger adding a tracking device to its clothing, which feeds back to the company how often the consumer wears it. To encourage consumers to don Hilfiger’s clothes more often, the company rewards frequent wearers with more clothes.

The potential uses for smart clothing stretches from the healthcare industry to manufacturing to the military, and many more sectors in-between. Here, Forbes talks about the concept of a ‘smart gown’ in hospitals that not only monitors patients’ progress via sensors, it can also tell other healthcare professionals the real-time prognosis and progress of an individual, rather than them relying on papers, graphs and assumptions.

Businessman wearing vr headset with global communication technology

Businessman wearing vr headset with global communication technology

Glasses that double as computer screens are no longer the subject of movies like Mission Impossible; Google Glass pioneered this type of wearable, but their invention was ultimately flawed, and the product was discontinued. However, Apple are reviving the smart glasses’ concept—their version will launch, hopefully, sometimes this year.

Building on the concept of smart glasses, head-mounted displays are set to become the next big thing in the wearables market. These could act like you’ve got a computer screen dangling right in front of your eyes with their field-of-view displays, but they will also mirror the functions of current AR and VR headsets and bring alternative realities to your eyes. There are so many applications for this technology in retail as well as everyday life. For example, imagine that you need a new sofa. You look online or go to the store to browse designs, then download your preferences into your headset when you’re at home and ‘see’ how your potential choices would fit in with your existing furniture as you look around your room.

Apple’s AirPods are another example of smart, wearable tech. This wireless technology means the user no longer gets tangled up in a headphone lead. You can make and receive phone calls via your AirPods, as well as instruct Siri on your mobile device to carry out your wishes. Noise cancellation is also a feature of the premium AirPods.

The wearables market is currently worth $90b and it’s almost doubled in the last couple of years as smartwatches and Fitbits have made their mark with consumers.

I can’t wait to get my heated coat (I’ve even spotted a heated gilet, too, whilst researching this article—that’s my Christmas present sorted now, too!) and I’ve ordered a Samsung watch this week to accompany the Z Fold3 I’ve just treated myself to (I’ve never been an Apple consumer, I leave all that to my kids). It’s difficult to picture a downside to wearable tech that’s not already with us (i.e. location monitoring, hacking of information, etc,), but, regardless, there are so many benefits to outweigh and cons.

Looking back at films of the 1980s that featured technology of the future (I watched the original Total Recall the other day—plenty of futuristic ideas in there), it’s clear that smart glasses and intelligent wristwatches are not new concepts. However, the idea is one thing, as Google Glass has proved…just because it can be made doesn’t mean it’s something the public wants to buy, if existing tech perfectly meets the needs of consumers in their current form.

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