The Clothes iWear: How the Next Frontier of Tech is Wearable

Which company is making its mark in the race for third place in wearable tech?

Consider the nascent market for wearable tech, sometimes called “smart” clothing. There are a number of innovations in smart fabric, smart glass, and electrified undergarments. These technologies will hopefully be used to make us safer and healthier, or keep us entertained in new ways. Every part of the body can be covered with some sort of technology that is either available now or is in the testing phase. The companies coming up with these new fantastic technologies are not necessarily the biggest names, but companies trying to find their place in an emerging market. At the moment of course, big organisations like Google and Apple are making the headlines, but what are they developing…. And how about all those other smaller companies snapping at their heels?

Head: Google & Samsung

The first thing you think of when you think of tech headgear is Google Glass. Google Glass can best be described as a device that augments reality. The transparent glass is overlaid with messages, and able to read commands by reading your eyes; there is also a camera that captures the same image your own eyes do. Most everything you can do with an Android phone, including voice commands, taking and sending pictures and video, and making calls (when paired with an actual phone), you can do with Google Glass.

The dream of controlling your device with the power of thought may soon be upon us. Samsung is developing a cap (although it could more accurately be called a helmet) studded with EEG-monitoring electrodes and testing how users can select a song or turn the volume up or down with just a thought. In the future, can we expect wearable fabric and brain-reading sensors to converge to make a thinking cap that you can actually wear?

Legs & Feet: Nike & Apple

The biggest market for shoes is the health-conscious consumer. Apple partnered up with Nike back in 2010 (a lifetime of Internet years), and Nike is now marketing Bluetooth sneakers. Sneakers of the future will be able to “talk” to their wearers, to other shoes, and to Twitter. A nurse running down a hospital hallways could set off an alert to other shoes, indicating an emergency, and where. Professional athletes' shoes could tell fans and commentators how fast and how far they run in a game in real time. And, for those who remember the old television show “Get Smart,” there's always the dream of the shoe phone.

Hands & Wrists: Apple & the SMEs

Rumors persist about Apple's “iWatch,” just as they once predicted the iPad. Other companies ranging from small to large have already developed fully functioning smart watches, which are Bluetooth devices capable of working in tandem with your smartphone. Smart gloves are capable of reading bar codes, mimicking instruments, or controlling a computer cursor. Smart gloves will push us even further away from keyboards and mice and towards the direction of gesture-based controls.

Beyond Wearable: The Potential in Kickstarter

Some wearable technology goes beyond what you can wear. Hyperstealth, a defense contractor, developed fractal camouflage that can adapt to its surroundings and change color depending on the environment. The material can be adapted to go on tanks and helicopters.

Microchips embedded into tattoo ink have a myriad of potential uses. Nokia patented a tattoo that would vibrate when you get a call. Medical sensor tattoos can be used by patients needing long-term care or by athletic coaches that want to measure and analyze performance in real time.

Who are the inventors? A lot of the great ideas are coming from the ground up, with many being paid for with money raised from Kickstarter. Becky Stern, a prominent name in wearable tech, posts DIY projects for wearable tech on her website, and on her YouTube channel, many involving sewing LEDs into things, and other projects like a wearable GPS. Of course, much of the wearable tech in the future will come from familiar names like Nike, Under Armour, and Google.

What will it mean for the future of communications when you have something you can carry with you at all times, even more so than phones are now, which are practically attached with an umbilical cord to their owners? It means that everything can be shared even faster than ever. When you have devices that you can wear on your face and control without keyboards, the speed of communications becomes practically the speed of thought. In order to support that much data being exchanged, there will be pressure on the FCC to open up the airwaves, and pressure from consumers by wireless providers to make data cheaper and faster as they share videos and social media updates with their friends. There is also the consideration of battery life. We will have to see continuing gains in batteries, most likely capable of induction charging, to keep up with the increasing demand for power; fortunately, smaller chips require less power.

From the fashionable to the functional and everything in between, we can expect developing technologies to be wearable, from as small as a microchip embedded in your skin to as large as hulking mech-suits. Science fiction is becoming science fact.

It's highly likely that any one particular of these technologies will remain as a quirky niche product, trying to get into that “third place.” Unlike the tablet market, or the HDTV market, the wearable tech market has no household names, other than Google. Will the big names in wearable tech be the big names like Samsung, or the little guys you haven't heard of yet, funded by Kickstarter? And will wearable tech be a necessity or a novelty?



By Reuben Yonatan - CEO, Editor-in-Chief, Analyst at GetVoIP & CloudHostingHQ