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Jun 21st 2019

The Future of Wearable Technology

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Well-known wearable gadgets include smartwatches that sync with your phone and fitness trackers. The future of wearable technology is predicted to go far beyond exercise trackers, however.

Advances in material fabrication for flexible electronics coupled with the availability of smaller power sources that power up in an instant are already reducing the size of wearables. Combine these with an enhanced IoT (Internet of Things), connectedness for rapid data exchange could put wearables for personal safety, comfort and information right at your fingertips, wrist or even your dog’s collar.

Beyond Steps: Wearable Gadgets for Health

The convenience factor of immediate on-the-body access to a wearable and its data could help you stay healthy. PC Mag‘s report on wearables at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES19) highlights a smartwatch with electrocardiogram (ECG) functionality. As previously reported, the Internet of Bodies (IoB) is poised to accelerate with enhanced interconnectedness; this means wearables could even help track elusive cardiac arrhythmias. Other wearables highlighted at CES19 include a device to monitor fetal health during pregnancy and a device to track bladder function for individuals prone to urine retention. Both wearables use skin sensors placed over the abdomen, which send data on baby kicks or bladder levels to a smartphone app.

Turning Disability Into Accessibility With Wearables

Repurposing the senses, allowing one sense to be amplified in the absence of another, is another advancement in wearable technology. For example, IEE Spectrum mentions a wrist device that uses sensory substitution to relay speech as patterns of vibration for deaf people; users learn to recognize the patterns, associating each with sounds. Another project uses woven conductive textiles to drape a body in haptics. In the form of a shirt, this technology can translate the sounds of an orchestra into different vibrations played over the surface of the skin. Fortune describes how micro-actuators direct sound from each instrument to different areas on the torso, immersing users in the orchestral experience.

Security

The future of wearable technology is on the lookout for your safety. For instance, this year’s CES19 promoted a personal alarm button worn on the wrist. Also available are RFID-blocking wearables that prevent identity theft.

Esub describes two wearable gadgets that can help worker safety — one of which catches you before you nod off. Micro-sleeps are a risk in many industries where workers operate heavy machinery, but the smart cap wearable checks in on brainwaves and alertness to give drivers or construction workers a heads up that they are fatigued.

Another device comes as a personal tag that tracks worker activity and location; linked to a central monitoring station, a supervisor can keep a virtual eye on construction sites, for example. Falls automatically trigger an emergency response and the tags will also send out a distress call when triggered by the wearer.

Heard About Hearables?

If you haven’t, you will soon. A Nieman Reports article describes how sunglasses laden with positional sensors will be able to tell not only where you are but which direction you are facing. This could be good for the directionally challenged, but even better if you are interested in the location-specific audio relayed to your ears. Imagine being alerted to construction diversions or security incidents while on your usual walking route. Hearables are predicted to be more visible as wearables this year.

Fitness Tracking for All Four Paws

It’s not just humans that need to count steps, apparently; fitness trackers for your pet are a growing market, too, with wearable gadgets to track all four paws. The furry future of wearable technology also includes GPS or accelerometer capabilities to track your pet’s location. Wareable lists a number of collars and tags that will upload data on walks, body temperature and calories burned. Apart from tracking a lost pet, data uploads could be useful for monitoring health.

As the tech gets smaller and more convenient for 24/7 access, even your cat can benefit from the future of wearable technology. Dare we say, purrfect?

Northrop Grumman has a long history of research and development resulting in innovation and discovery. We’re always looking for people to join our team and participate in creating the next big thing.

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