IoT wearables is exploding onto the retail scene, with fitness trackers, smartwatches and smartglasses leading the way in smart gear. But these aren’t the only markets that wearables can serve. As reported by Teena Maddox (@teena_maddox), Senior Editor at TechRepublic: “Health-related wearables, particularly those for seniors and babies, and for monitoring sleep and health conditions, constituted a large segment of the new devices on display” at the CES 2016.
Being as such, in part two of our Wearable IoT series, we’ll take a look at the capabilities of today’s latest senior-monitoring wearables, baby-monitoring wearables and clothing-based wearables. We’ll also discuss various products offered across different brands.
Senior Monitoring Wearables
Wearable devices are on the rise for seniors, particularly designed to monitor their safety and well-being. AOL’s former CEO and Revolution Growth’s present founder, Ted Leonsis, states: “As the population ages and people live longer, a health care industry that monitors people living alone will become a major new category for investment…Quick advancements in wearables for elderly are needed as the world population is aging at an unprecedented rate – it’s been reported that by 2050, 2 billion people will be over 60. And those individuals will have grown accustomed to technology being a part of their daily lives, unlike previous generations.”
IoT wristbands are one of these wearable monitoring options. They combine motion and location sensors to monitor the wearer’s behavior, after which software determines the activities of the wearer and sends this data to an analysis hub. After first learning the wearer’s regular patterns of activity, any alterations in this activity will trigger a signal, alerting whomever is the wearer’s designated contact via email, text or app. This monitoring can aid those who live on their own – seniors, in particular – by alerting those who care for them, in the event that their habits are severely altered, due to injury or depression.
Another up-and-coming device involves communication through touch. A senior and a caregiver can wear the communicating sensors, which detect nonverbal language – ie, light, sound and vibration. The two can then identify specific movements to correlate with meanings. For instance, two taps could mean yes and one, no – or if the senior needs assistance, he/she might tap on the sensor several times. When the movement is made on the sensor, the message is sent via Bluetooth to the caregiver’s device. Such devices are making it easier for people who have trouble communicating verbally to speak with a simple tap. In this way, wearables are making life easier for both parties by easing the pathways of communication
There’s nothing more important than keeping your baby happy and healthy. And this is where wearable IoT can make all the difference. Not only can IoT devices give you, a worrying parent, the peace of mind that your baby’s stats are healthy, but it can actually save your infant’s life.
One such item is a simple sock which works as a baby monitor. Using hospital-grade pulse oximetry technology, this wearable IoT monitors your baby’s breathing, heart rate, and even notifies you if his/her sleep has been interrupted. Offered in three sizes, the sock can be charged on a base station and combined with a companion app via Bluetooth.
Another option for baby-monitoring IoT is the smart hat for newborns. This hat is designed with a vital signs monitor, measuring respiratory rate, heart rate, blood oxygen saturation and temperature. This particular design syncs up to 24 hats to a single tablet via Bluetooth. Created especially for hospitals, so that hospital staff can note the vital signs of a roomful of newborns all at once, these hats may be life-saving, as the custom software will notify a nurse or doctor if a newborn’s temperature or heart rate enters into dangerous territory.
Not only will our glasses and watches be smart – but our shirts, suits and belts will be too. Clothing brands are evolving their lines to include invisible sensors. Samsung, for instance, debuted a smart new clothing line of golf shirts, athletic wear, suits and belts.
In 2015, smart clothing-based wearables became a thing. Although they haven’t become mainstream by any means as of yet, IoT clothing is turning into a game-changer for some brands, with many companies seeing the benefit of tracking heartrates and emotions and also paying for our grocery shopping through the very fabrics we wear.
As reported by Maddox, the vice president at Forrester, J.P. Gownder, predicts that “Clothing-based wearables will continue to grow. Smart workout clothing and undergarments will begin to gain market awareness by the end of 2016.”
Some of the greatest smart clothing-based wearables on the market today include fitness-based wearables and business-based wearables. Let’s take a look at both categories.
How smart is your sports bra? If it’s not an IoT wearable, it might do the job, but it’s probably not that smart. One such IoT bra records heart rate, breathing rate and running distance, while informing you when you’re ready to get to the gym for another workout. It also connects to multiple fitness platforms, if you’re not keen on the one designed specifically for the bra.
Are you a runner? The posture tracker for runners boasts a battery life of one month per charge. In the form of a set of running gear – capris and running shorts – the clothing (or a sensor, if you prefer) calculates running metrics, including the length of the runner’s stride, the duration when the runner’s feet are in contact with the ground, pelvic rotation and even cadence. In real-time, you can have your own personal coach who will improve your form through feedback provided via audio.
Another way to track your running is through IoT socks, which record distance, pace, time, and your running style. This information can help runners improve their form, prevent injury and speed their pace. With three textile pressure sensors and a calculating unit at the top of the gear, the sock also notes the amount of pressure placed on different parts of the foot while you run. All data appears in an app dashboard.
Similarly, smart clothing is being produced to monitor movement, breathing and heart rate using sensors throughout the fabric. Additionally, Bluetooth Smart sensors within the clothing allow fitness gurus to link their personal fitness apps or third-party accessories to the clothing, allowing for customized use. Real-time data links to the paired app, allowing for insight into various fitness metrics, like calories burned, level of fatigue, intensity of a workout, and even the quality of the wearer’s sleep.
And for those who are more into strength training, another company offers a clothing range, incorporating medical technology into interwoven micro-EMG sensors, each of which notify your smartphone via Bluetooth about which muscle groups are being worked during your training along with how hard they’re working. They also record your breathing and your heart rate. The linked app allows you to adjust your exercise routine to better meet your goals and prevent injuries. As with the posture tracker, this is like having your own personal trainer on speed dial.
Some brands are building completely biometric workout shirts and even golf shirts that track UV rays and weather. To put it simply, the future of fitness-based wearables is bright.
Although not shining so brightly, perhaps, business-based wearables are also coming into vogue. Asia has built a smart suit that enables the wearer to digitally deliver business cards, switch devices to drive or office modes and unlock phones.
Not to be outdone, a company in the UK has designed a contactless payment jacket. The contactless jacket’s right sleeve cuff is fitted with a payment chip – the same featured in debit or credit cards – which enables the wearer to pay for items at restaurants, bars, shops and various stations via bPay. In this way, clothing-based wearables are streamlining payment processes and making purchasing easier for the consumer than ever before.
As this series suggests, the promise of a more interconnected future is literally at our fingertips with IoT wearables. Look forward to a more immersive and interactive relationship to technology in the years ahead.