Wearable tech isn’t really a new technology, but it is building a new momentum. In the early 1980s, Casio came out with its series of Databank watches, which featured 16 multi-function keys and a whole range of storable data. Around the same time, Polar and other companies began manufacturing portable, wearable heart rate monitors for athletes to get real-time feedback from their workouts. Personal pedometers have been around for a long time, but in recent decades became fully electronic and work from GPS satellites rather than simply attempting to count and measure steps.
Currently, a new breed of wearable tech is emerging based on smaller and cheaper memory, better miniaturization technology, social engineering and advancements in GPS equipment. Now instead of wanting to track a particular workout, people want to be able to track and record every waking minute of their lives, and their sleep patterns as well. Not only that, but they want this data synched with every device they own and the cloud as well.
Wearable tech for those interested in fitness has evolved rapidly over the last few years. Far from the old mechanical pedometers which relied on motion to count steps and an ‘average’ pace to determine distance, these modern wonders do so much more. The modern version of the pedometer from companies such as FitBit uses accelerometer technology, calibrated to the individual to measure motion and keep track of distance traveled. Other devices combine this method with GPS data where available for even greater accuracy. More advanced models can combine that with an altimeter to keep track of stairs climbed or hill workouts. These wrist-wom pieces of tech track all movement throughout the day, and then keep track of your sleep patterns. This data is then wirelessly synced with laptops, smart phones and tablets for ready access to the data.
Smart clothing has also made great strides in recent years. Shirts that constantly monitor a variety of health related issues and both records that data for later retrieval or syncs the data to other devices have been out for several years. Improvements in size, weight, memory and communications is swiftly leading to smart clothing that can be worn full-time by not only athletes, but anyone in need of constant and accurate monitoring of vital statistics. Imagine a future Olympics where all the data on all the athletes is displayed real-time during competitions.
The trend toward wearable tech doesn’t end with fitness buffs, either. In 2013, Google began beta releases of its Google Glass technology. These wearable computers incorporate optical head-mounted displays, to give wearers an almost Star wars view of data and the world around them. Early prototypes do not actually contain lenses, but Google is working with lens manufacturers to add prescription lenses in the future. Using voice activated technology, the user can take pictures, get directions, or send messages to friends via Google+.
For those who grew up with the promise of the Dick Tracy watch, the new age of wearable tech is finally here.