Wearable Technology: A New Era of Gadgetry Innovation
DOI : 10.3844/ajeassp.2014.353.354
American Journal of Engineering and Applied Sciences
Volume 7, Issue 4
Today, wearable technology comesin a wide variety of forms, from wrist and arm bands to eyewear, footwear andsmart textiles. The number of wearable electronic devices available in today’selectronics market including smart watches, activity trackers, helmets andsmart clothing seems to grow substantially. In fact, this technology isrecognized as one of the hottest trends and one of fastest growing technologies in themodern world. According to a recent market study, the international revenue ofthis technology is estimated to be 45 billion USD in 2016 and over 300 billionUSD in 2028 (Hu, 2010).
Wearable electronics, which have the merits ofportability, mechanical flexibility and potentially, re-configurability, wouldsignificantly broaden the applications of modern devices and gadgets. Thistechnology is in fact being established as an appealing alternative to theconventional hand-held electronics technology which is based on rigidplatforms. It is worth mentioning that recent advancements in the developmentof miniaturized and efficient energy storage and self-powered electroniccomponents have facilitated the commercial success of this technology (Khaleel etal., 2012).
One can already observe a growing demand forcommercial wearable products in today’s electronics market (think Google Glass,Fitbit and Apple Watch). There is an immense variety of smart watches, health monitors, fitness bands, smart clothing and other wearableelectronics on the shelves, which clearly indicates that the wearabletechnology is on the edge of becoming mainstream. Moreover, in light of thesocial media revolution, wearable technologies could serve as an excellentplatform for modern consumers who tend to capture and share the progress andactivity of their lifestyles digitally.
Generally speaking, wearabletechnologies aim at integrating technology into everyday life activities tomaximize the quality and convenience of consumers’ life. For example, wearableactivity and health trackers that monitor the vital signs of a user, such asheart rate, glucose level, temperature, blood pressure, burned calories andsometimes even sleep and stress patterns are very popular nowadays (Nathan etal., 2012). It is also expected that in the near future, more types ofbiometric data would be captured via additional sensors embedded within thewearable device and naturally, it is anticipated to see personalized apps thatlink these advanced functions to smart phones, tablets and the internet cloud.
Tracking, monitoring and identifying people and objects by means oflow-power and low-cost Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology isanother great example of wearable technology. This technology has alreadyflourished due to the advances in material science and power efficientelectronic components manufacturing (Lakafosis et al., 2010).
An ultimate example of this technology would be the Google Glass whichis probably the most publicized wearable product. Google Inc. is alsorecognized as one of the most adopting corporations of this technology. TheGlass is basically a pair of glasses equipped with a built- in microprocessorand a bunch of essential peripherals such as a camera, display, finger-pad anda microphone. Via these peripherals a user can access endless streams ofinformation and capture instant activities through a friendly, easy to useinterface. Furthermore it utilizes voice recognition technology to typemessages or perform commands. Google Glass accesses information on the internetvia two wireless technologies: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth which are hosted by thewireless service of the user’s cell phone.
Obviously, the number of applications and fields that could hugelybenefit from this technology is virtually unlimited. Some of the fascinatingapplications that utilize the Glass are in the fields of personalcommunication, medicine, entertainment, sport, tourism and security. Google isalso working on optimizing a smart contact lens with an embedded miniaturizedsensor that measures glucose levels in tears and forward the data to a smartphone through a compact wireless transmitter which provides glucose informationfor diabetic patients (Novartis, 2014).
On the downside, there are a couple of noteworthy technical challengesthat currently form an obstacle in the way of further deployment and extendedfunctionality of this technology. The first is an obvious one: The limitationsof the current battery technology in terms of efficiency, size and sustainability.Secondly, for most applications, wearable devices require their integratedcomponents to have the merits of flexibility and mechanical robustnesssimultaneously; i.e.: They must tolerate high levels of bending, flexing androlling repeatability. Additionally, weather and environmental factors(humidity, heat, pressure, etc.) have negative effects on the performance ofwearable devices which need to be addressed and analysed (Raad et al.,2013). This consequently raises a trade-off between convenience and productdurability. However, solutions to these aspects will eventually improve overtime, allowing manufacturers to optimize devices further. Advancement innanotechnology and printed circuits seems to be steering in the right directionwhen it comes to the fields of sustainable energy and circuit miniaturization.Additionally, with the extremely fast emergence of new technological trends,consumers tend to take time to fully embrace and absorb such technologies. Infact, market analysts anticipate that as with laptops and tablets, wearabletechnology will spend five to ten years of its age targeting vertical marketsbefore becoming mainstream triggered by the emergence of a breakthroughproduct.
Obviously, the applications of wearable technologiesare extremely powerful and virtually countless and would potentiallyrevolutionize our lives on various levels. Therefore, all aspects of this vitaltopic are attracting serious attention from government, academia and R&Dfirms aiming at enforcing a faster technology adoptability.
© 2014 Haider Khaleel. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.