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Wearables: Where Do We Go From Here?


Robin Raskin, Founder, Living in Digital Times

The wearables market continues to grow, but also to perplex. Shrinking form factors, robust cloud storage, longer battery lives and more sensitive sensors make wearables capable of doing more than ever. This year you’ll see wearables taking new forms, finding new functionality, and yes, even being more fashionable. As we head into CES 2018, here are a couple of my 2018 wearable predictions.

Glasses Come Back Into Vogue

It was the year of the glasses from the most unlikely place: Snapchat.  Meanwhile, VR glasses from HTC, Sony and others are going mainstream in the workplace with training being one of the primary usages. New glasses on Indiegogo from Let, have a mic and bone conduction headset built in so that your glasses become your command center for everything from controlling your lights to talking to Alexa or Google Home.

Wearables Migrate to New Parts of the Body

We’ve already seen companies like Nuheara, Bragi and Valencell target the ear as the new “it” place for wearables. The ear is loaded with blood vessels making it easy to get accurate measurements of heart rate and exertion when you’re exercising. Nuheara’s hearable gives you bionic-like hearing, letting you tune out ambient sounds or focus in the direction of the person speaking. 

Xenomi’s haptic interface shirt is open to developers to create everything from body controlled gaming interfaces to health monitors. Rings like Kerv can make NFC driven payments just like you’d make a mobile payment with your phone.

Mindfulness is a Watchword.

When you can receive data about your body’s state you can act on it. EEG brain signals from wearables like the Muse band are finally being adopted into more and more formats including new sunglasses that can sense your brain’s state of relaxation. Spire, a wearable piece of jewelry (also takes the form of a health tag for your clothing) offers continuous respiration sensing that determines your stress level and lets you act on it.

Actionable feedback. The newer wearables are like wearing “my mom.” They offer remedies. They remind you to go to sleep earlier, to stand taller, to take a break from your screen, to tell you when you’re dehydrated. While older wearables tended to report on your progress, newer ones are predictive and prescriptive.

Wearables in the Workplace: We’re betting that this is the year you’re going to see more smart-assistant wearables, including bands and smartwatches, on the wrists of workers. With biometrics and identity management built-in, this class of wearable will provide access to buildings, or to your computer files. With geo-location built in, it will help managers know who is out in the field and whether they are in danger. I can’t tell you who’s doing what yet, but you’ll find out at this year’s CES.

Smart Ecosystems of Smart Clothing:  And tech isn’t just being used to make wearables, it’s being used to make garments smarter. Making it easier to track from the day the cloth is woven to the day it winds up as a garment in your closet, NFC and RFID smart tagging systems keep track of a garment’s travels, minimizing fraud, shipping paperwork, inventory management and more.

Biology Meets Wearables

Biology is meeting the physical and digital. We’ve seen fabric that looks exactly like leather but was grown from mycelium -- a mushroom material.  Dr. Amanda Parkes of Fashion Tech Lab turned us on to microfluidics moisture-controlled materials that mimic the skin by being able to sweat. There are silk-like materials being woven from DNA. Woven and flexible circuits are being built into band-aid sized strips or woven into fabrics like the sleeve of the new Levi Jacquard jacket. Creepily enough, wearables are headed towards injectables. Already, tech company 3SquareMarket showed the world a glimpse of the future when they had all of their employees injected with RFID chips, used for everything from paying in the company cafeteria to accessing the building.

Robin Raskin is Founder of Living in Digital Times and Producer of the Wearable Tech Summit, a half-day conference that explores the high tech body language of products strapped, inserted or attached, making our bodies the new habitat for technology. Join industry experts and pioneers on Thursday, January 11 during CES 2018 at the Venetian, Level 4, Lando 4302. See the full agenda and register here. Follow the Wearable Tech Summit on Twitter and with #WearablesCES. Follow the entire CES conversation at #CES2018.

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