by Don Basile | Dec 21, 2015 | Tech
When mass appeal wearable devices arrived on the scene in 2009 in the form of Fitbit, skeptics wondered whether consumers would feel the need to track their steps and calories. But as technology has gotten more sophisticated and devices more sleek and intuitive, the industry has grown exponentially. As the worldwide wearables market is expected to swell to more than 126 million units shipped in 2019 (up from 19.6 million units in 2014), its applications have moved far beyond fitness trackers. Let’s take a look at three groundbreaking innovations that are poised to revolutionize the wearable tech sector even further:
1. Battery Innovation
For wearable tech to become as ubiquitous as smartphones and tablets, batteries need to be smaller and longer lasting, while also being thinner and more flexible. SamsungSDI and LG Chem have made headway recently, as demonstrated at the InterBattery 2015 exhibition in Seoul. Samsung debuted two new batteries: the ultra slim .3mm Stripe, a flexible battery with higher energy density compared to others on the market, thanks to its minimized battery sealing width. Because of the Stripe’s thinness and flexibility, there’s a big opportunity here for wearables to move into more devices, like necklaces and clothing. Meanwhile, the Band is meant to attach to smartwatch straps to add 50 percent more battery power to the original device. Contorting the battery over 50,000 times in testing its durability, Samsung’s focus on form as well as function could be a game changer when these enter the consumer market around 2017.
LG Chem also unveiled a new flexible smartwatch battery that it first began developing in 2012. Setting this one apart is its ability to fold into a tight radius of 15 mm, or half the size of current batteries on the market. The wire battery will allow for smartwatches to be much more flexible in future designs.
2. Wearable Health Patches
Ultra thin wearables that adhere to the skin like tattoos to monitor vital signs might sound like science fiction, but they’ve been around for a few years now. Until recently, the trackers were prohibitively expensive and time consuming to make. But researchers at the University of Texas have developed a “cut and paste” method for affordably producing these trackers in just 20 minutes. The process involves cutting pieces of metal on polymer adhesives and printing electronics onto the adhesives. While these patches aren’t yet widespread in healthcare settings, this latest breakthrough could make them more readily available as a way for doctors to track patient vital signs, heart rate, muscle movement, and more.
3. Nanotech Powered Wearables
Manipulating substances on the atomic and molecular level could provide a new host of wearable tech capabilities. Two years ago, Google X announced it was working on developing magnetic nanoparticles capable of seeking out cancerous cells in the bloodstream and reporting these to a smart wristband via light signals. Filing a patent called Nanoparticle Phoresis earlier this year, Google is making headway on a lofty goal that could revolutionize the way we detect and treat cancer, among other maladies.
Meanwhile, the wonder material graphene—a single atom layer of carbon bonded hexagonally, the thinnest and strongest material ever created in a lab—has given rise to over 25,000 patents since its discovery in 2003. Among the latest potential applications for graphene is wearable, coated fabrics that can detect dangerous gases in the air and alert the wearer by activating an LED light. Led by researchers at the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute and Konkuk University in the Republic of Korea, this breakthrough could be applied to industries where air quality poses a health threat and wearing a monitor will allow for quicker response time to threats. Combined with graphene’s proven heat reducing potential in electronics, the nanomaterial is poised to be a big player in wearable tech.
* This article was originally published on TechCrunch. Check out my author profile here.
by Don Basile | Oct 10, 2015 | Sports, Tech
With projections on wearable tech becoming a $75 billion dollar industry by 2025, the largest sector ripe for cashing in on the wearable craze is healthcare. From fitness to medicine to wellness, the capacities for tracking metrics and translating them into goal-oriented wearables that are swiftly finding increasing demand among consumers is practically infinite. While there’s an obvious market for devices like the Jawbone Up and Apple Watch, there’s a growing number of wearable devices coming to market that encourage users not to do more, but to do less.
According to the most recent survey on stress conducted by the American Psychological Association, Americans are routinely more stressed than what the association considers healthy. Polling over 3,000 adults last August, the study found that the average American considers his or her stress level a 4.9 on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being “little or no stress” and 10 being “a great deal of stress.” We should strive for a 3.7, according to the association. 42% of participants reported not doing enough to manage their stress on a daily basis. Enter the next generation of wearables, aimed at helping users find calm amidst the chaos of modern life.
Designed by Stanford University’s Calming Technologies Lab, Spire is a smooth stone that clips to your belt or bra, measuring breathing patterns and counting steps taken throughout the day to pinpoint your tension levels. Retailing for $149.95, Spire claims to be able to reduce your stress by 50% through embedded sensors that monitor breath pattern and sync with the app, which sends gentle reminders and notifications when your stress levels are higher than optimal. Spire has received rave reviews from users and press so far, mainly because it offers a solution to a very real problem of forgetting to breathe properly, especially when sitting for hours in front of a computer. Spire gets bonus points for its sleek design. In a sea of chunky bracelets, this smooth stone with a simple wishbone clip stands out as something you’d actually want to show off.
Being, the mindfulness tracker from Zensorium, is a different spin on the same concept. Being, available for preorder for $199, claims to be able to differentiate good stress from bad, while tracking heart rate, blood pressure, and sleep cycles. What’s interesting about this one is its attempt to map a user’s emotions through heart rate variability (these four emotions—stressed, excited, normal and calm—are pretty basic, though). Like Spire, Being offers deep breathing exercises when stress levels spike. Unlike Spire, Being has a bulky watch face that many won’t find comfortable to wear 24/7.
Recognizing that stress is usually triggered by external factors, WellBe monitors heart rate levels and then matches them, through a patent pending algorithm, to specific moments and interactions throughout a user’s day. Available for pre-order with an expected December 2015 release date, WellBe is priced at $119. What sets this wearable apart is its eco-friendly cork composition, which makes it light and comfortable for all day wear. WellBe’s connected app is robust, offering guided meditations, positivity playlists, breathing exercises, and even a library of meditation mentoring programs that can be used for ongoing life coaching.
It was only a matter of time before yoga mats went high tech. SmartMat is a responsive mat embedded with 21,000 sensors to detect your body’s balance, pressure and alignment. This data is then sent via bluetooth to a connected app that runs on iOS and Android. SmartMat requires a first time calibration process where the mat gets to know your individual body. Three settings allow users to choose between a voice guided practice for real time posture corrections, a headphone connected option for in-class use, or “Zen Mode,” which tracks silently for post-class review. There’s also a bunch of classes in the SmartMat marketplace. Made of eco-friendly PVC and disguised as a regular yoga mat, this one’s sure to be a hit with the namaste crowd looking to turn their practice inward. Pre-orders start at $297.
Calling itself the world’s most advanced breath and posture tracker, Prana is another yogi-inspired wearable intended to encourage better habits over time. Featuring a waistband clip that lies flat when wearing, Prana’s unique angle is to turn the mundane task of improving posture and breathing into “gamified breathing,” with two minute games where you try to match your breathing to a field of flowers or a bird’s flight. Using bluetooth to transfer data to the Android and iOS app, Prana tracks 10 different breath and posture statistics. Backed by algorithms that can differentiate posture’s effect on breathing, as well as diaphragm vs. chest breathing, Prana collects a lot of data for a single sensor. Which begs the question, how much do we need to know about every breath we take? Prana might be best suited for those looking to address medical conditions like asthma or hypertension, but casual users might find the Spire more elegant.
The Bottom Line
Of course, you don’t need any of these devices to tell you when you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or out of alignment. The human body has been sending us that data, free of charge, for millennia. But with the quantified self movement in full force, we’re sure to see more wearables capitalizing on the mindfulness sector in years to come. As these devices catch on in popularity, let’s hope to see a decline in stress levels in the American Psychological Association’s 2016 survey.
This article was originally published on The Next Web. Check out my author profile here.
by Don Basile | Aug 12, 2015 | Sports, Tech
The fitness tracking wearable tech market is exploding right now, and on the forefront of latest innovations in the ever-growing industry is Moov Now: one part fitness tracker, one part artificially intelligent personal trainer. Launched as a Selfstarter campaign in February 2014, Moov generated over $1M in presale orders in just two weeks—meaning founders Nikola Hu, Meng Li, and Tony Yuan were really on to something. The personal trainer aspect takes this tracker beyond its myriad competitors.
Worn as a bracelet, Moov pairs with an app to train the wearer in 5 sports: running, cycling, swimming, boxing, and a 7-minute bodyweight workout for the time-crunched or the traveler. Unlike other popular trackers like Fitbit, which counts steps, Moov tracks movement within a 3-D space. An accelerometer, a gyroscope, and a magnetometer make up the hardware that allow this 3-D mapping to occur in real time—all without the use of a camera, and all within a surprisingly slim bracelet design.
Paired with the device’s data collection is an algorithm that makes sense of the data to deliver a Siri-voiced personal trainer, who coaches users with tips on achieving proper stride alignment and lifting technique. Creating a custom training plan, working out with Moov a few times earns you a certain level. Running, for example, has 69 different levels and 5 modes tailored to weight loss, speed training, and so on. Your personal trainer will encourage you to reach for higher levels and give you flack for slacking off, too. It’s all about accountability and feedback—the two keys to sticking with any workout regimen long enough to see results. At $59 apiece with pre-orders available and a scheduled fall release, the Moov Now bands seem streamlined, affordable, and well positioned to disrupt the wearable tech market and a whole bunch of (human) personal trainers out there.
Images via Moov