From head to toe: wearables beyond the watch

Smart watches generated great hype when they first appeared, but since then sales have been disappointing for consumer electronics manufacturers who hoped we would all swap our analogue timepiece for a digital Swiss army knife.

According to IDC, sales fell in 2016 because consumers needed a clear purpose for investing in a smart watch, such as fitness or health monitoring.  The good news, however, is that IDC expects smart watch shipments to hit 161 million units in 2021, as more practical applications are added.

Apple’s Watch Series 3, for instance, now has it’s own cellular connection, allowing wearers to make calls, receive texts and stream music when they don’t have their smartphone to hand. In the future, smart watches may use machine learning to track our behavior in real time, which for doctors creating health plans, for example.

It isn’t just smart watches that will change the way we work, rest and play.  Here we look at five other wearable trends that are changing lives and industries.

Body temperature tracking

Increasing health awareness is driving innovation in wearable body temperature sensors. Until recently, measuring core body temperature has been a challenge but a research team at the University of California, Berkley has developed a 3D printed sensor worn on the ear. The sensor continously measures core body temperature in real-time. A Bluetooth module transmits temperature measurements to a smartphone app.  Measuring core body temperature is paramount in caring for small babies, those with clinical conditions, the elderly, athletes and preventing health stress in workers working in harsh conditions. Yepzon has introduced wearable tracking with IoT Services from Orange Business. The trackers can be used to track elderly, vulnerable relatives, for example.

Smart garments

In the fitness sector there is a move from wrist-warn wearables to clothing to make them more accurate. Accelerometers, for example, if worn on the arm can’t provide accurate information on moving the body mass. Moving your arm backwards and forwards, for example, may push up your steps on many activity monitors. Under Armour's Speedform Gemini 2 Record smart running shoes, for example, tracks your running regime. The chip in the shoes connects with an app on the runner’s smartphone giving a more accurate picture of steps and distance covered. Smart fabrics are also being used to collect data from athletes in training.

Skin sensors

In healthcare, skin patches using sensors are being developed to detect chemicals in the body. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have developed a flexible, wearable device that can monitor both biochemical and electric signals in the human body. Dubbed the Chem-Phys patch, it has been designed to record electrocardiograms (EKG) and monitor lactate levels, which highlights physical effort. The device worn on the chest sends data to a smartphone. The device has a breadth of uses from monitoring heart patients to gym workouts.

Wearables at work

Wearables at work will become as ubiquitous as the smartphone. Realtime data from smart glasses and sensors can enhance communication and save employees having to travel to work sites. Other innovations include a wireless language translation earbud, developed by Mymanu, which is capable of translating 37 different languages in real time.  Smartcap has come up with technology that can be incorporated into headwear from caps to hard hats that monitors fatigue to ensure operators and drivers are working safely. Smartcap is already being adopted in road transportation industries.

Wearables on construction sites

The construction industry is an obvious target for wearables, due to health and safety issues. Interesting innovations are appearing that will transform worksites:  Spot-R, for example, is a wearable networked device that clips onto the lapel providing real-time location visibility of workers on construction sites, without having to spend valuable time continually carrying out visual checks. A self-alert button lets workers instantly report site hazards and incidents. Augmented reality company Daqri has come up with an AR hard hat that gives wearers additional information about their surroundings.  With a combination of cameras and sensors, the smart hat can record information about the wearer’s surroundings, show construction plans, for example, and highlight guidelines on health and safety.

Connected devices collect and process data in real time, providing an incredible opportunity for industry, health and wellbeing. Find out more about how Orange Business is helping business connect and reinvent themselves here.