Let’s hop into the time-machine and go a few hundred years back in time. The history of wearable technology starts with the watch. In the year 1500, the German inventor Peter Henlein created small watches that were worn as necklaces. A century later, men began to carry their watches in their pockets as the waistcoat became a fashionable item, leading to the creation of pocket watches.
Later in the same year, wristwatches were also created in the late but were worn mostly by women as bracelets. With time, the watch became smaller and more precise. In 1904, the aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont was the one who pioneered the use of the wristwatch as it allowed him to have his hands unoccupied when piloting his aircraft.
The decision proved incremental since the wrist is a convenient place to wear a watch which led people to start utilizing wristwatches. People, over the course of decades that came, started to create wearables that they can use in every occasion, right from tools which can help them win in gambling games, to rings used as a computational device by traders, electronic headbands that can be used as a costume in theaters, and a wearable camera strapped to a bird to take aerial photos, among others.
The latest wearable technology is closely related to both ubiquitous computing and the history and development of wearable computers.
Wearables make technology pervasive by inculcating it into daily life. Coursing through history and development of wearable computing, pioneers have attempted to enhance or extend the functionality of clothing, or to create wearables as accessories able to provide users with sousveillance, which is the recording of an activity typically by way of small wearable or portable personal technologies. Tracking information like movement, steps, and heart rate is part of the quantified self movement.
Coming to the origins of modern wearable technology, they have been largely influenced by both of these responses to the vision of ubiquitous computing. One of the earliest mementos of widely adopted pre-modern wearable technology was the calculator watch, which was introduced in the 1980s. And an even more early wearable technology was the hearing aid.
IoT Clothing & Accessory—- The Past
Once we crossed the millennium, in 2004 fashion design label CuteCircuit revealed a concept Bluetooth-connected electronics, that they named HugShirt, at the CyberArt Festival in Bilbao, Spain, winning a Grand Prize at the festival for them. The HugShirt was designed for tele-transmitting touch over a distance. It differs from previous early wearable technology examples because the product is the first wearable technology that took the form of a garment of clothing.
Interestingly, this is also the first piece of Bluetooth-connected and internet-connected clothing. It was also featured Time magazine’s “Best Inventions of the Year” special issue.
Back in 2008, Ilya Fridman had incorporated a hidden Bluetooth microphone into a pair of earrings. The rubber earring clasp design allowed this headset to attach itself to the earlobe like an earring. This allows it to have a clean minimal look without any heavy over ear hooks weighing down the style.
One could activate the headset in two ways: the first of which activates the ‘talk’ function and is achieved by flipping down the microphone; or it can also be activated for listening only (e.g. music) by pressing the button in the centre of the light ring.
Designed back in 2008, this headset was a shortlisted entry in the Plantronics – Sound Innovation Competition in early 2009.
At the same time, the Spy Tie had appeared in the already fascinated world, a “stylish neck tie with a hidden color camera”. This was a small size and fine quality CCD color camera hidden inside has 450 lines of resolution and was perfect for the professional or DIY, even in lower light its 0.2 LUX could get a clear clean video.
IoT in Wearables—- The Present
In the wave of wearables, Fitbit is one of the first wearable device and wearable app development company. McLear is another such company in line. These were the early two technology companies to develop modern wearables for mass consumer use, and not solely as futurist conceptual products.
McLear still remains as one of the leaders in the wearable computing space who had begun research and development on smart watches and invented the smart ring in 2010.
Fitbit, on the other hand, had released its first step counter in late 2010. Fitbit products have primarily focused upon activity tracking since the start. The company is now owned by Alphabet and is no longer an independent wearable electronics company.
Eventually, smartwatches began to be released by major electronics companies as well as by new start-ups. One of the initial offerings that came was Samsung Galaxy Gear in September 2013. Apple followed more than a year later with the Apple Watch in April 2015.
Then in 2018, a small business called Empatica achieved a milestone. They received the first FDA clearance for their smartwatch in Neurology, the Embrace, which monitors and alerts for grand mal seizures, while also detecting steps and sleep.
Wearables in Healthcare, Clothing —— The Future
Wearables in healthcare are used for a variety of purposes today which have taken the ecosystem of healthcare on a whole new level. It is used for various purposes to check:
- Heart rate
- Calories burned
- Steps walked
- Blood pressure
- Release of certain biochemicals
- Time spent exercising
The future of wearables in healthcare involves various applications are they currently being explored.
- Forecasting changes in mood, stress, and health
- Measuring blood alcohol content
- Measuring athletic performance
- Monitoring how sick the user is
- Long-term monitoring of patients with heart and circulatory problems that records an electrocardiogram and is self-moistening
- Health Risk Assessment applications, including measures of frailty and risks of age-dependent diseases
In the world of clothing, or say e-Clothing, wearable technology is rising to a rather unimaginable level.
- Project Jacquard, a Google project led by Ivan Poupyrev, combines clothing with technology amazingly. Google collaborated with Levi Strauss to create a jacket that has touch-sensitive areas that can control a smartphone. The cuff-links are removable and charge in a USB port.
- Intel had partnered with the brand Chromat to create a sports bra that responds to changes in the body of the user, as well as a 3D printed carbon fiber dress that changes color based on the user’s adrenaline levels.
Intel also partnered with Google and TAG Heuer to make a smart watch.
When you define wearable technology, you can say that: wearable technology, wearables, fashion technology, tech togs, or fashion electronics are smart electronic devices with micro-controllers which can be incorporated into clothing or worn on the body as implants or accessories. And, we are reaching to a whole new level of wearable technology.