Interest in wearable technology has grown considerably in the past few years with the announcement of Google Glass in 2012 and Pebble smart watches exceeding its funding goal, raising more than US$10 million in its Kickstarter campaign in the same year.
Since then, we’ve seen many more smart watches being announced by consumer electronic brands like Samsung and Sony. Possible rivals of Google Glass have also been spotted such as Israeli startup, eyeSight Mobile Technologies.
At the London Wearable Technology conference in March, Cisco’s Chief Futurist, Dave Evans, defines wearable technology as, “(devices with) contact to body, connections to objects via the cloud and context.”
Ordinary objects being connected to the cloud has been popularly referred to as the Internet of Things (IOT). Its possibilities include gathering data and making thing we already wear smarter.
Chris Dancy, dubbed the ‘Most Connected Man’ in the world by Mashable wore a pair of Google glass on stage at the conference while sharing his ideology of quantified self. Dancy believes that having an ‘inner-net’ where he measures all aspects of his life through sensors and wearable devices helps him to make better decisions.
“There’s data correlation between home air quality and my driving,” quipped Dancy. Dancy is currently storing the data he collects to make positive behavioral changes to his life. He showed a picture of him losing considerable weight since embracing this lifestyle.
But too much data can be overwhelming too. When Reebok’s Vice President of Advanced Concepts, Paul Litchfield, took the stage he highlighted the products (including apparels) being worked on by his division and parted with one advice.
“We need to find the balance between sophistication in technology and elegance,” said Litchfield.
Fashion-related wearable technologies were a big part of the conference with CuteCircuit taking stage with colourful LEDs generating moving visuals on T-shirts and dresses.
CuteCircuit considers itself a fashion label of the future and was founded in London in 2004. It has made dresses for stars like Kate Perry, where she wore a cat suit made of thousands interactive luminous crystals for her performance “E.T.” on reality TV talent competition, American Idol.
Other fashion-related wearable technologies present involved implanting sensors on sportswear to track athletic performance and variables such as heart rate and power. Taiwan based company, AiQ Smart Clothing, has successfully done so through the blend of conductive fibers and fabrics to allow electrical impulses to flow through its fabric to reach an implanted sensor.
Another technology present at the show, which charmed the audience, did not involve circuitry. Instead it involved chemistry. Manel Torres from Fabrican, showed that his Spray-on Fabric cans can be used in both fashion and healthcare. Torres gave an example where soldiers in a battlefield need to quickly cover up their wounds or create a cast for fractured bones can use sterile fabric emitted through a can.
“The next step in wearable technology is city-level interaction. The challenge here is acceptance of the technology. Some San Francisco bars have already banned people from wearing Google Glass within its premises,” said Anthony Mullen, an analyst from Forrester Research.
Cisco’s Chief Futurist, Dave Evans thinks that wearable technology may eventually shrink to the size of a red blood cell perhaps overlapping with the field of nanotechnology.
A panel discussion shed light on how wearable technologies could be more widely accepted by the masses in future: better battery power, more intuitive user interface design (considering the small screens) and durability (e.g. waterproofing).
A skeptic at the show mentioned how wearable technologies runs the risk of losing its novelty after a few weeks. “Smartphones can have the same sensors,” he said.
See the full Metalworks coverage on Flickr: London Wearable Tech Conference - an album on Flickr