Wearable technology is about you the user, not the technology. The successful products are those that improve people’s lives. Smart tech provides an opportunity to connect the user to the technology as it coaxes you to make the right decision. It can provide motivation and record the results of your action or inaction. Apple Watch is such a product, but it is limited to sensors on the wrist.
Will future tech take us away from what we like to do or will it serve us? Wearable tech is making us healthier rather than turning us into the couch potatoes one imagines when thinking of video game playing or streaming TV services.
Rather than being ruled by technology which is largely the way it has been up to now, wearables are smart tech that allows us to improve our selfs by tracking the number of steps we take or monitoring our sleep or weight vs activity.
Josh Bradshaw hosted a panel of industry experts who provided their insight to the Internet of Things. The panel consisted of Nick Langston of TE Connectivity, Robert Falco of TUV SUD, Cath Rogan of Smart Garment People and Cory Rosemond of Plantronics. The discussion focused on where are wearables going and how they will get there. The following is what I walked away with after listing to these experts in their fields discuss the future and challenges of wearable tech.
The general feeling is that wearables are going to satisfy customer needs. People will benefit from the data these devices provide. What we see today is a lot of data being collected. More analysis of the data will move the technology forward. For mass adoption, more context around wearables is needed.
Multi-functionality is necessary for the success of wearables. Instead of many devices collecting different data sets in different wearables, consolidation of or combining sensors in a single garment makes sense. Hypothetically you put on a tech shirt which collects many different data points rather than just one or two.
A sense of fusion would exist with multiple sensors infused throughout a garment making it multifunctional. The idea being that one day you can leave your devices at home, just wear your smart garment. It’s not there yet, there are a number of challenges that need to be met. Batteries are getting better, sensors are getting smaller. Sports and fitness pros are using smart tech extensively today. This is where wearables will come from for the mass market.
Managing the data is key. Wearing sensors for a health condition will be able to detect when someone has forgotten to take their meds. There is no better place to put sensors than in textiles. You can quantify and monitor activity.
Another point of discussion was the difference between enterprise and consumer wearables or fashion versus enterprise. After looking at some of the garments infused with sensors, it’s easy to see some of these as fashionable items. Smart wearables in the workplace or enterprise are the other side of the coin. Imagine a day when monitoring the stress levels in police, and firefighters or members of other stressful professions is possible. Or improve patient outcomes by having a patient wear a garment with sensors at home instead of prolonged stays in a hospital. Imagine the potential cost savings.
What are the challenges? Making a business case for adoption of this technology at the enterprise level can be difficult, however, there are plenty of examples for cost savings which can be a driver for adoption of wearables in the enterprise environment. Laundering is a challenge for smart garments. The industry is getting there. But the biggest challenge is financing. Because of this, wearables will likely come to consumers through enterprise since that’s where the money is.