A GUIDE TO HOW WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY HAS CHANGED OVER THE LAST HALF CENTURY
It was only a matter if time before wearable technology was accepted into mainstream audiences – in fact, it is such an everyday phenomenon now, that if you were to tell someone that their smart watch was actually considered a piece of ‘wearable’ technology, they would actually be quite surprised. As a concept it is not well understood, and is still focussed around sci-fi style glasses which allow you to travel through time!
A NEFARIOUS START IN GAMBLING
But actually wearable technology has been seeping into every day use since the mid 20th century. Gambling was the nefarious cause, which encouraged Edward Thorp and Claude Shannon to create a computer small enough to fit into a shoe. This device was designed to help them cheat at roulette by predicting where the ball would land.
In the seventies and eighties, the calculator wristwatch was the must wear item for celebrities and rockstars alike. To be fair, they were probably the only ones who could initially afford them anyway – with prices equivalent to about $3000 in today’s money! Paired up with a Sony Walkman, your street cred would have gone stratospheric!
LIFE SAVING ADVANCES
But the biggest advance in wearable technology has to be in the healthcare sector. We may have considered wearable technology to be the preserve of fashion and music – but for many people wearable technology can be, literally, life saving.
Such devices include pacemakers, robotic cameras, insulin pumps and glucose monitors. There are also hearing aids, heart rate monitors and sensors. These days, with the advances in technology, and regulations, that govern shaped batteries, there is no area in terms of healthcare that cannot be used to determine the monitoring and adjustment of our health.
In the United States, lithium batteries that are to be used in medical devices must comply with the following standards if they are to be considered for use in MedTech.
- ANSI/AAMI ES 60601-1 referring to the general requirements for base safety and performance.
- IEC 60086-4 and IEC 62133 referring to safety and performance under intended use and reasonable foreseeable misuse.
In terms of shipping and transportation, the batteries must also meet the strict tests of the UN 38.3 requirements, which consist of eight tests to be carried out in sequence. These tests include:
- Altitude simulation.
- Thermal test
- External short circuit
- Forced discharge
What does the future hold?
Outside of the medical arena, entertainment is probably the other most prolific area for wearable technology. Fitness trackers and smart watches are probably the most popular, combining health monitoring with the app technology that we take for granted these days through our smartphones. The inter-connectivity enables you to track the progress of your fitness through heart rate, steps and estimated calorie burn, and even tracking the quality of your sleep.
Creating an alternative reality
VR (virtual reality) headsets are becoming old hat these days. Brilliant at creating another reality that absorbs you into an alternative reality, these are rapidly being replaced by augmented reality, or smart glasses, which enhance your reality by transposing virtual elements onto your real line of sight. Although gaming is the natural testing ground for all these types of technology, their application in other areas such as enhancing sports performance or optimising work flow patterns are becoming more and more mainstream.
Actually wearing technology in your clothes is still an area which has yet to come into its own. Although it remains the domain of sports and fitness, there is still much work to be done to bring wearable fashion out of the labs and onto the high street in a way that is practicable and affordable for the mass market.