By: Raj-Kabir Birk
As smartphones and tablets continue to rise in popularity, companies are already taking major steps[i] into the next phase of technological innovation in the form of wearable technology. ‘Wearables’ are accessories that have computing and electronic capabilities, including but not limited to smart eyewear, smart watches, and fitness wristbands. The sector is estimated to grow by a total of 10 to 50 billion dollars in the next five years[ii], and the development of a slew of innovative wearable tech is already evident.
One of the prominent pieces of wearable technology to emerge in the last year is Google Glass. Launched for testing in 2012, the product is currently available on an invite basis to the select few from The Glass Explorer Program. The smart eyewear features a small screen above the wearer’s right eye which projects walking directions, text messages and emails, and includes a camera capable of recording 720p video. Samsung is rumoured to reveal its competitor, the Galaxy Glass, at the 9th Annual IFA Global Press Conference in Berlin this September. At the event last year, Samsung took a major step into the wearables market when they launched the Galaxy Gear. A smart-watch, the Gear works with a Samsung Galaxy smartphone to relay calls, text messages and e-mails. The watch must be tethered to a Samsung smartphone to operate fully, which indicates an overreliance on external technology, and further emphasizes the limited audience for the Gear. However, with the Gear 2 slated for release later this year, Samsung is looking to make continued improvements on the smart-watch design and application.
In addition to smart-phone connectivity and capabilities, a growing number of wearable devices are geared towards healthy-living. This includes numerous athletic wristbands, such as the Nike Fuelband and LG Lifeband Touch, which measure heart-rate, calories burned, and steps taken in any given day. Sony has expanded the possibility of the athletic wristband with the SmartBand, which not only tracks athletic endeavours, but quantifies all manner of data. This includes who you’ve been interacting with throughout the day, where you’ve been going, and what music you’ve been listening to. This information can then be accessed through the Lifelog app available exclusively on Android devices. The lack of iOS support may harm the SmartBand’s reach in the long-term, but Andriod users will be able to benefit from the day-to-day logging the product provides.
As the wearable tech market grows, so does diversity in the category. The Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month saw a wearable baby monitor from Rest Devices – with technology from Intel, fitness socks from Sensoria Fitness, and 3D augmented reality glasses from Meta. This signals a broad, concerted interest in exploring the mobile, chip-based technology.
Although the sector is deemed a potentially lucrative market[iii] in terms of mobile computing, attempts are being made to broaden its application towards the health sciences. The highest profile company to take lead in this respect is Google with the development of the ‘smart contact lens’. Equipped with a small sensor, the contact lens measures the glucose levels in tears and sends the information to a doctor, which will aid diabetics’ in managing their disease.
Whilst still at the infant stage, reports say investment in wearable technology will continue to get stronger[iv]. Whether they will succeed as large-scale endeavours or niche products remains to be seen, but innovation in this category will undoubtedly go on.
Raj-Kabir Birk is currently enrolled at the University of Toronto at Mississauga in the Professional Writing and Communication Program. His interests primarily lay in mass media, technology, and their relationship with consumers and audiences. After graduation, Raj-Kabir will be pursuing postgraduate studies in media studies.
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