The notion of wearable technology is one that we recognise and has been around for many years since brands such as Burton Snowboards launched jackets that allowed ‘boarders’ to control their iPod through soft switches in the arms.
From a design perspective there are exciting developments in technology right now that are promising products such as Google Glass that will deliver alerts and information about your internet life through a heads up display (HUD) imbedded in a pair of glasses. However for me the exciting future lies with what some are calling ‘Smart textiles’ or ‘E-textiles’ that can measure your heart rate, blood pressure, motion etc all within the construction of the textile, removing the need for a physical ‘device’. This vision builds on products such as the Nike Pro TurboSpeed Suit which was used in the London Olympics to help athletes cut through the air more efficiently. Imagine the future where such a suit will also be able to record your speed, motion and bio-metrics to determine where you lost 2 tenths of second, or that your stride length was too short in the last 20m! Maybe your body will eventually be able to provide the energy to power systems such as a human dynamo. This future is not as far away as it seems and self-initiated groups such as the Quantified Self (QS) are pushing forward the boundaries in this area, researching and developing technologies that monitor your health / behaviour, the communication of the information and applications of use.
Image credit: Fitbit
The other thought that occurs to me when discussing wearable technology, is how all these different systems that we wear will begin to communicate with each other and form their own place in a cloud-based system of interlinked services. In a projected future world your trainers will tell the energy drink in the fridge that you need more protein today after your run, before the drink bottle tells the fridge how many are left so the fridge can update your supermarket order and all while your data is shared with your doctor, who will remotely monitor your health. In this type of connected world products like Fitbit or other wearable technology will be evaluated initially on how the eco systems they sit within handle the immense amount of data they will create as they crave to operate effectively. But ultimately products that interact with us so intimately will be judged on how they communicate this data and engage with us in providing a useful experience – that will be the true test of a product and service’s longevity. (This highlights an area that for me has not been fully resolved in current wearable offerings).
Finally if one considers where such a trend would lead then things start to get very science-fiction like. Comparatively it was not that long ago that a phone always had a cable, before we embraced carrying a phone with us everywhere. If wearable technology and Smart textiles continue to push the development of products as seamless systems, then surely the ultimate future will be all about sub-dermal implants to measure and interact with your body!