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Wearable Technology: The Next Frontier

Barbara Fullerton

Barbara Fullerton (You can tell who she was rooting for to win the World Series!)

Barbara Fullerton, Owner, Librarian in the Cloud, Inc. said that wearables and their apps are projected to become a $20 billion market in the next few years.

What is a Wearable?

A wearable device uses sensors that measure data and project what is happening with the user.  There will be many new companies springing up in this field, but the killer product has not come to the market yet. Fitness and health-related devices make up about 60% of today’s market.  The greatest interest is in the wrist because people are used to wearing watches on their wrist and the devices are movable.  One fear is that insurance companies will enter this field, collect user data, and produce customized rates.  They will also know where you have been, your health issues, etc.

Issues and Concerns

Many companies want a piece of the wearables market, so there is lots of M&A activity.  For example,  Jawbone and Microsoft bought several companies to acquire more than 80 patents, and Google has announced a $542 million investment in Magic Leap.  Many companies will go into apps instead of making gadgets.

Fullerton showed slides with details of many of the wearable devices that already exist.  They are available on the conference website.  Here is the list of some of the devices she mentioned.

  • Rocket Skates: the world’s first electric skates.  They strap over shoes and connect with an app on smartphones.  (They might be good for using in a large library!)
  • Magic Leap:  Google invested $542 million in this company which has not annnounced a product yet.  From the patents, it appears to be a “lightweight wearable” using virtual reality and 3D.  This is a company to watch.
  • Digital Tattoo: a wearable dot holding passwords, etc.  It will last for 5 days before wearing off.
  • Smart Hair Clip:  alerts you when you could be in danger and sends for help.  Does not need to be connected to your phone.
  • React Sidekick/React Mobile:  an app to call 911, etc.
  • The Dash:  smart in-ear headphones.
  • Kite Mosquito Patch:  allows humans to be undetected by mosquitoes for 48 hours.
  • LEO:  calculates how much muscle you are using when exercising, hydration level, etc.
  • iPal Smart Glass:  Has 4 cameras instead of the 2 that Google Glass has, fits over glasses, uses blinks to take photos
  • Smart Button:  monitor attaches to a baby’s clothing, streams data to a smartphone app, detects breathing, measures movements
  • LeapBand: tracks kids’ activities, gives challenges and awards points.
  • FiLip:  a wearable phone and locator for kids.
  • H2O Pal:  Turns a water bottle into a smart bottle: measures how much you drink, nags you when you have not drunk enough, allows sharing progress with others and collecting milestone badges.
  • Ingestible computers: a camera in a pill.  Monitors how a patient’s body is responding to medicine, detects movements and rest patterns, sends data to doctors (or insurance companies?), goes through the body in 24 hours, costs only $46.
  • SKULPT Aim: Aims for perfect muscle tone and sculpts your muscles with electricity, sets training goals.
  • Bionym Nymi: a wristband to replace usernames and passwords with 1-stop bio-authentication.  Monitors patterns of heartbeat to identify the wearer.
  • PulseRelief: helps suppress persistent pain using TENS technology.  Prevents pain signals from reaching your brain.
  • Fitbit:  GPS tracking, heartrate monitor.  No need to have your smartphone with you to monitor activity.
  • Fitbit Charge:  Continuous heartrate monitor, fitness tracker, monitors sleep quality
  • Apple Watch:  analysis of daily movements, 1/2 day battery life, available in 2015.
  • Peak:  another type of smart watch to track hartbeat, motion, skin temperature, perspiration.  1 day battery life with touch screen controls.
  • Jawbone:  Bought BodyMedia, produces wearable arm bands. New devices coming out in 2015.
  • COPD Gadget:  worn inside disposable patch, diagnostic statistics like heartrate etc. sent to doctor

Issues surrounding wearables include: Who will provide the next innovation?  Who owns the data collected?  What are the privacy issues?  What will happen with insurance companies?

Fullerton predicted that 2018 will be a big year in the wearable device market.  There are already two conferences devoted to wearables: the Wearable Technologies Conference in the US and the Wearable Technology Show in Europe.


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