At one point in time, the most exciting trend in wearable tech was clip-on pedometers and other gadgets. We’ve come a long way, and with the invention and improvement of smartwatches, wearable tech developers are continuously searching for ways to further improve and quantify our lives.
Apple, Fitbit, and Samsung have all built smartwatches and fitness trackers that allow users to not only improve their health but connect them to the internet to always stay tuned in.
What are the next wearable technology trends? How will wearables move past smartwatches and into the world of medicine, mental health, and the workplace?
Everything from smart socks to virtual offices is available now as the wearable tech trends continue to move past the confinements of a user’s wrist.
What is Wearable Technology?
The simple definition of wearable tech is any device that you wear or otherwise attach to your body.
Smartwatches are the most recognizable and popular forms of wearable technology, but the industry and advances are opening up a more diverse market. Advances are allowing for new ventures into virtual reality (VR), the integration of real-time information into our reality as well as steps into the world of Internet of Things (IoT) that allows for the transmission of data from person to person via remote.
Top 20 Trends in Wearable Technology
Wearable technology initially focused on various watches or fitness bands, but that is starting to change and evolve.
As technology improves, wearables are moving off the wrist and used for more than tracking steps and checking emails or text messages. Applicable uses in medical fields — both physical and mental health — workplace, safety, and entertainment are at the forefront of wearable tech.
The old saying that “the future’s so bright that you have to wear shades” is more applicable than ever, and not just because of smart glasses. Wearable technology is branching out, quantifying and improving our personal lives, workplaces, gyms, and even our physioligy. It’s becoming more and more a part of everyday life.
Smart Fashion: Wearables Beyond Smartwatches
While smartwatches are the rage, they’re not always the most fashionable accessories. In that light, there has been much innovation in developing smart fashion that still does things like track steps and heart rates, but look better.
Manufacturers are looking beyond watches and jewelry, as well. You can find smart socks such as Sensoria with sensors woven into the fabric to track steps and distances, a perfect item for runners and hikers.
You no longer have to rely on a watch to track your fitness. Smart fashion allows you to look sharp while you track.
Medical Wearables for Remote Patient Monitoring
Remote monitoring assists patients with chronic illnesses, temporary conditions, and increasing general wellness. With the use of wearables, doctors can monitor vitals and body conditions without the need for lengthy and pricey office visits.
For instance, a person with diabetes can monitor glucose levels and have that information immediately available to their medical practitioner. Biosensors monitor their chronic conditions, updating statistics in real-time.
A great example of these innovations is the Phillips Biosensor, which is a self-adhesive patch that automatically and continuously measures vital signs, body posture, step count, and detects falls. This data can be sent remotely to clinical information systems to allow for real-time monitoring by medical professionals.
Wearables for Workplace Management
The workplace has always been a focus on evolving technology. We’ve moved from doing things manually to more and more automation in the office.
Wearables are finding their way into work as well, offering several ways to improve the efficiency and wellness of employees.
Companies with a remote, spread out workforce are utilizing smartwatches for communicating quickly and timely. Everybody from wait staff to factory workers can not only get notifications quickly, but can update their team as to their status.
It’s not just smartwatches, however. Audi and other car manufacturers have implemented wearable exoskeletons to help with posture and back pain.
Wearables To Better Mental Health
Mental health can be a struggle for people, and wearable technology is working on ways to help.
Meditation is a beneficial practice in the treatment of mental health, and Muse has developed a wearable with this purpose in mind.
Muse is a headband EEG device that measures your brain activity while a comparable app guides you through meditation.
Wearable to Monitor Medication
One of the more impressive wearable to help with medication is Abilify MyCite. It’s a combination of oral aripiprazole tablets embedded with an Ingestible Event Marker (IEM) sensor to help people with schizophrenia manage medication.
The tablets record medication intake with a wearable sensor and communicate it via an app to the patient’s medical provider. Similarly, Carrot has developed and received FDA approval for a Carbon Monoxide Breath Sensor System. It uses Bluetooth to pair with a breath sensor to record and track the effect of smoking on a user’s lungs. helps smokers to quit smoking by providing real-time feedback on how the intake of smoke is affecting them.
IoT and the Quantified Self
As the technology grows, smartwatches and wearables can, and are, being integrated more into the broader Internet of Things (IoT) that can enhance our health, productivity, and lives in general.
IoT refers to a system of devices that communicate data to each other over a network without requiring human interaction. The possibilities afforded are exciting as IoT devices and services continue to advance. There are commercial uses like turning your home into a smart home using Apple’s HomeKit to connect your Apple Watch with your Apple TV and other devices.
Wearable Tech for Mixed Realities (XR)
The wearable trend that most resembles scenes out of science fiction movies is Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented reality (AR).
VR simulates experiences with wearable viewing devices, usually a headset, while AR adds information to the world around you, usually viewed through glasses or a monitor.
Virtual Reality headsets like the Oculus Rift immerse the user into some entertaining virtual worlds.
The uses of Augmented Reality go beyond gaming and entertainment. Workers can collaborate and work on projects in real-time, remotely, from around the world.
There are health and fitness applications to AR as well. Imagine putting on a pair of glasses and getting a workout using Artificial Intelligence training, or being able to access a personal trainer without going to the gym.
Continued Popularity for Crowdfunded Wearables
While there are big players in the wearable world, independent companies that are developing intriguing tech. There are over 1,000 wearable projects on Kickstarter looking for funding, and many that are pushing the evolution of smart wearables and offer new and innovative ways to accentuate and quantify your life.
There are smart jackets, and hoodies, made for runners, shoes with built-in metal detectors, and wearable trackers for the pool. The next big wearable breakthrough may already be in the works and looking for funding from users.
Continued Popularity for Crowdfunded Wearables
While there are big players in the wearable world, independent companies that are developing intriguing tech. There are over 1,000 wearable projects on Kickstarter looking for funding, and many that are pushing the evolution of smart wearables and offer new and innovative ways to accentuate and quantify your life. There are smart jackets, and hoodies, made for runners, shoes with built-in metal detectors, and wearable trackers for the pool. The next big wearable breakthrough may already be in the works and looking for funding from users.
Wearable As A Service
Wearables such as the Apple Watch try to offer uses open to the individual user and gives you access to several different uses.
However, there is movement in developing wearables as a service; in other words, developing a wearable that provides unique tailored services or products to its customers — services such as security services, elderly care, and other functions.
A great example of wearable as a service is the Freedom Guardian, which is a wearable medical alert watch. It features alerts and notifications reminders to take medications, comes with GPS so family members can track the location of vulnerable parents or siblings, and read-out-loud SMS messaging for accessible communication.
Wearable tech is starting to augment the way we interact with the world audibly. That includes medical enhancements for the hearing impared with hearing aids that are able to isolate sounds, such as a conversation in a room as well as other concentrated abilities.
There are also entertainment enhancements. Wireless earbuds are all the rage but what if they did more than just play music, or your favorite podcasts? Some companies are looking at enhanced earbuds, or ‘bionics’ that offer more features. There are products, like Echo Buds, already on the market that allow you to access Amazon Alexa, or Siri, by simply pressing your earbuds and talking.
For those who aren’t comfortable with ear buds, there are now portable speakers that you wear, leaving the ears free of any intrusions. These are speakers you take with you that allow you to hear the music, the world around you, all while directing the sound to you so it won’t be a nuisance to others. Sony’s immersive wearable speaker is one such product and allows you to amplify music, television, or video games without shutting out the rest of the world.
Wearable Tech For the Blind
There have been a number of innovative wearable devices to assist the blind in navigating life. Everything from braille readers, altered Google Glasses and even smart canes. The weWalk is a smart cane that detects obstacles, loads navigation software, and even learns local bus routes.
But, smart canes aren’t the only wearable tech for the blind. There are other trends, such as wristbands that can assist. The Sunuu Band is worn like a smartwatch or fitness tracker and assists blind, or limited vision, users navigate in public, and around objects. It utilizes a combination of radar and an augmented reality to alert the wearer of obstacles near them.
Not only do these devices provide safety in movement it allows vision impaired people to maintain social distancing in a time when the COVID-19 disease demands we all stay six feet apart from other people.
AI-Powered Health Monitoring
For years now there have been a wide variety of fitness bands, trackers, and smartwatches that allow for some level of fitness monitoring. These trackers generally monitor similar statistics. How many steps did you take? What’s your heart rate? How high did that heart rate get while you were working out?
There is a trend to go further however, allowing users a more comprehensive and complete tracking of workouts and fitness. The Amazon Halo allows you to measure your body fat percentage, how long you’ve been sedentary — while motivating you to move more and increase workout intensity — and your sleep patterns. It also monitors your voice and will analyze how you sound and are communicating.
Contact Tracing Wearables for Disease Prevention
A key endeavor in the containment of an infectious disease, such as COVID-19 is contact tracing. Knowing who has come in contact with the infected is invaluable as it allows exposed people to quarantine or get tested.
There are manual methods of contract tracing, such as having patrons signing in on a piece of paper but now there is wearable tech that makes it easier.
Products like Alerttrace can be worn and records when wearers get within six feet of each other. The cloud uploads that information and can be used to analyze how effective patrons at a restaurant, or at the workplace, or at a school are social distancing.
Smarter Smart Glasses
Smart glasses and head mounted wearables has been a growing trend. Gamers have enjoyed the entertainment value out of Oculus Rift and Google took a swing at smart glasses.
The glasses never took off but the search for perfecting the idea of smart glasses didn’t die. Amazon has released Echo Frames, which are a huge step in the right direction.
The new frames connect to Alexa and put all of its features into your frames. A listening device allows you to listen to music, or a podcast while going about your day, through the frames.
Having a service like Alexa available hands free and attached to glasses could be a game-changer in the smart glasses field and bring it mainstream.
Wearable Innovation For COVID
The COVID pandemic has affected everyone in the globe and wearables are being looked to for possible solutions to help mitigate the virus. A recent study by Scripps took data accumulated by fitness trackers from 35,000 people to see if any COVID symptoms presented themselves in the numbers.
They found that 31 of the study participants tested positive for the disease and 82-percent of them showed symptoms in the data collected from their Fitbits, Apple Watches, and other devices. Attempts are being made to create a database to try and see if a predicting model can be created.
Masks are essential to reducing the spread of COVID and people the world over are stocking up on medical, or cloth masks to stay safe. LG is taking the mask concept further. They’ve developed the LG Puricare mask which is a wearable, battery powered air purifier giving its wearer clean air to breath.
Advanced AI In Wearable Tech
We’ve seen it sci-fi movies: humans interacting with computers vocally. There are no keyboards to hack away at and the characters just command the device by audible commands. We have some of that now with Siri and Alexa, but what is the next step?
How about keeping quiet and controlling your personal computer with your mind.
Sound far fetched but that’s exactly what Elon Musks’ Neuralink has developed. The Neuralink is a small, coin-shaped device that is surgically implanted and connects with the ‘wearers’ neurons to allow them to manipulate computers. Musk says that this technology may also to lead to medical advances in what he calls ‘a Fitbit for the skull’.
Smart Helmet For Safer Biking
Riding a bike is a great way to burn calories and get a good workout. Wearable tech already can help by tracking your route, heartburn, and calorie burn while out on the bike trail.
More and more people use a bike to commute to work. With rising fuel costs and a desire to be eco friendly, peddling your way around town is a worthy cause. With more riders on the road, the wearable tech market is looking for ways to make that easier.
That includes the helmet, the most essential piece of safety equipment now can sync with your phone, allow you to take calls or listen to music. The Coros Omni helmet uses a slick bone conduction audio system so you’ll still have ambient awareness for safety. It links with a control mounted on the handlebars so you can connect with your smartphone without stopping.
The helmet has led lights on it and gives the rider a lighted, and safe, view forward.
Sleep Monitoring Through Smart Pajamas
There are numerous health benefits to getting a good night’s sleep. Wearable tech is available to help monitor how you’re sleeping. Fitbit will track your sleep by monitoring your heart rate, how restless you are, which lets you know if you need to look at making some adjustments to your routine.
Advances are being made that can offer the same sleep diagnosis without the need for a fitness tracker. It’s happening in the world of smart clothing.
Wearable tech is starting to become more literal as now smart clothes are becoming popular. There are smart workout shirts, socks and now even pajamas. The Eskin sleep and lounge offer more than comfort while in bed. They monitor sleep and adjust to the temperature of the room you’re in.
Wearable Device For Pain Management
There are numerous patches you can buy over the counter that claim they’ll heal muscle or joint pain. They are smelly, used chemicals, and only mildly effective. Wearable tech is on the case and thanks to advancements like nanocapacitors, you can pinpoint pain in a noninvasive way by wearing a high-tech patch.
Massages can be not only relaxing but therapeutic as well. With the current pandemic, getting professional massages may not be an option. There are various wearable tech that offer a substitute for having your own masseuse. There are devices that you can wear and get a massage and target specific areas of your neck or back.
Smart Apparel For Athletic Performance
Fitness trackers are great for monitoring your progress in getting into and staying in shape. A metric like resting heart rate which the Apple Watch tracks is a great way to tell if you’re improving your overall health and shape.
There is also a benefit from monitoring your performance. Are you working out with proper form? Are you recovering properly from your work out?
All those questions are beginning to be answered. Wearable tech such as Formsense break down form, along with other biometric data. This data can be reviewed to look for improvements. Formsense is marketed to sports teams and athletic organizations but down the road could become available to personal trainers, gyms, and individual athletes looking for a quantitative edge.
As wearable tech developers continue to look for devices beyond fitness trackers and smartwatches, we are seeing exciting advances.
The medical applications of wearables continue to be an exciting area to watch for development. With health care costs on the rise, being able to track and communicate with medical providers remotely is a valuable commodity.
Augmented reality and immersive eyewear can implement in the workplace to improve efficiency and ease of a company’s workforce. There are monetary benefits to having employees work remotely, and wearable tech can connect workers from any location.
What once seemed like pie-in-the-sky science fiction is becoming more and more the reality as wearable tech advances.