Imagine that your magnificent stone ring keeps track of all your activities during the day or notifies you of incoming calls and messages on your phone with coloured lights! Well, if we say that you only need to touch the sleeve of your denim jacket to adjust the volume of your headphones… Wearable technology products, which were hard to even imagine in the recent past, have become almost indispensable in our lives today. Now you don’t have to be a secret agent to answer your phone calls from your watch, your in-ear devices that you activate with a tap offer you the opportunity to listen to music and talk in excellent sound quality.
Our interest and commitment to mobile devices, which we can use independently of the place and make life easier with different aspects, is increasing. This shows that the products we define as “wearable technologies” will gradually develop and diversify.
What is wearable technology?
Wearable technology is the general name of technological devices that we can attach to suitable parts of our body or integrate into our clothes, according to their design and features. Although the history of wearable technology products is quite old, today, in order for the product to be suitable for this definition, the product must have smart sensors and microchips and allow the transfer of data via wireless networks.
Another concept that we need to focus on in order to better understand wearable technologies is the Internet of Things (IoT). The Internet of Things is based on the principle that objects connected to a network communicate with each other and transfer the data they need to each other. The Internet of Things, which entered our lives in the early 2000s, continues to develop with many application areas such as smart cities, smart homes and wearable technologies.
History of Wearable Technologies
Although slightly different from its current context, the history of wearable technologies goes back to the 15th century. The first pedometer, which Leonardo da Vinci developed for military purposes, was implemented by the Swiss Abraham-Louis Perrelet in the 17th century and was used to measure distance based on the number of steps taken and time.
Small clocks used as necklaces were produced in the 16th century. The fact that watches became portable was an innovation in itself. After a while, pocket watches started to be designed when men started to carry their watches in their pockets instead of their necks. In the next century, wristwatches were developed for women in the form of bracelets.
In the 17th century, rings designed as jewellery and used as abacus were produced. In the same century, the first hearing aids were developed.
Calculator wristwatches, which were produced in 1975 and considered a turning point in wearable technologies, have literally become a phenomenon.
The development of wearable technologies after this date has reached a dizzying speed. Fingertip-mounted heart rate monitor was introduced in 1977, two years later portable wireless heart rate monitor was introduced. The Sony Walkman, which entered our lives in 1979, made a radical change in our music listening habits. In the 80s and 90s, technologies were developed that could weave electronic devices into clothing. In 2000, the first Bluetooth headset was released. The Bioharness chest strap, developed by Zephyr in 2003 and aimed at tracking the vital signs of athletes or physically demanding workers, was used in Chile in 2010 to track the health status of miners who were stranded in a mine for 69 days.
2009 was the year we met fitness bands or smart wristbands. In 2013, the first version of Google Glass was put on sale in limited numbers, with many discussions it brought with it, and the concept of “smart glasses” was introduced into our lives. In 2015, smartwatches became the most valuable segment of the wearable technology market. We will see together how wearable technologies, which we meet with a new device or application almost every year, will shape our future.
Why Wearable Technologies Matter?
Although the product and usage areas of wearable technologies have started to transform the communication, education, entertainment, and fashion sectors and our way of doing business, especially in health, in the last decade, it can be said that they are still at the very beginning of the road.
Wearable technology products in the healthcare field technically date back to the early days when doctors wore pagers, but they have the potential to affect the way doctors and patients communicate to the point they reach today. Technologies that allow the remote digital monitoring of the data of those with chronic diseases, and transmitting data such as sudden falls and fainting to emergency helplines, have already started to save people’s lives. Mike Yagger, 78, who lived alone in the very recent past, was rescued thanks to the fall detection feature of his Apple Watch. Detecting that Yagger remained motionless for 45 seconds, the device automatically called 911 and enabled the relevant units to reach it. This event is very important in terms of showing us the transformative effect of wearable technologies.
Future Place of Wearable Technologies
Considering the speed of technological developments, we can say that the possibilities in the future of wearable technologies are endless. However, experts think that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our personal lives will also affect the changes that wearable technologies will experience in the near future.
Currently, most wearable technologies can measure very basic health parameters such as heart rate and blood pressure. With the pandemic, vehicles that monitor the oxygen level in the blood and have a temperature sensor also gained importance. With the prominence of health and home life issues and wearable technologies; It is expected to add interfaces that will enable sleep monitoring, mood monitoring, remote monitoring of the elderly and children, and more comfortable use of smart home devices. Thermometers and sensors to measure the oxygen level in the blood have already begun to be added to smart wristbands, which have more extensive equipment in terms of measuring health parameters. The most important development expected about these devices is that they offer a contactless payment experience with an NFC feature.
As innovations enter our lives one after another, we cannot ignore the fact that we consume more and get bored more quickly. Since product developers are also aware of this fact, it is certain that different forms such as necklaces and key chains will be developed, especially for smartwatches and wristbands. In fact, these changes started to give their first examples today. Wearable technologies, developed exclusively for women and highlighting design, are on their way to becoming an important market.
One of the most important steps in the future of wearable technologies will be the reduction of their dependence on mobile phones and the prolongation of their battery life. We can connect our headphones, watches, and wristbands to our phones via Bluetooth, but we still have to comply with distance limitations in terms of accessibility. In the coming years, it is expected that there will be important developments in this regard and the endless charging cycle of the devices will decrease.
We can say that “user experience design” and “user interface design” studies, which we see gaining importance today, will enable us to have much more affordable and user-friendly products for wearable technologies in the future.
Most Popular Wearable Technology Products
Smartwatches, one of the best-known and most widely used wearable technologies, enable us to read and respond to messages sent to our mobile phones from our watch, and to answer calls without holding our phones. In addition, it also contains many features of the smart wristbands we use to track our daily physical activities. The designs of smartwatches are constantly evolving and changing. Apple Watch, one of the leading brands in the industry, also allows users to take EKGs, track all fitness records, and measure the oxygen level in their blood without any additional accessories. The Matrix PowerWatch, on the other hand, can be charged with solar energy and body heat.
Smart wristbands, or fitness trackers, that introduced most of us to wearable technologies; It monitors and records the steps we take, our heart rate, the number of calories we burn, and a whole host of other data. Although they are more affordable than smartwatches due to their focus on functionality, with a number of features added in recent years, the price and performance difference between smartwatches is gradually decreasing. Being the market leader, Fitbit has a wide range of products for children to adults. The Garmin Forerunner is especially appreciated as a smart bracelet that focuses on runners. Xiaomi and Huawei brands also have models that stand out with their affordable price-performance values in the smart wristband market.
Smart jewellery, which focuses on monitoring physical activities, stands out as the most ideal wearable technology for those who do not want to use watches or bracelets and who seek more minimal and stylish solutions. Smart rings developed by brands such as Oura and Ringly are worn on the finger just like standard rings. Users can follow all their health data from their smartphones. While Oura prefers a simple design, Ringly offers a rich collection of rings and bracelets created with semi-precious stones. Intense interest in smart jewellery has also prompted many designers. There are many smart jewellery designs with different features from necklaces to brooches, from bracelets to earrings.
The most distinctive and permanent solution for smart jewellery was developed by Joule. Designed as a behind-the-ear lock suitable for all earrings, you can use the device with any earrings you want. The device is also the world’s lightest activity tracker with a weight of 1.5 g.
Compared to other examples of wearable technologies, smart clothing offers a wider range of options that will facilitate lifestyle and allow medical follow-up. Considered as the future of wearable technologies, smart clothes have many different options according to their intended use. One of the companies that carry out extensive studies in this field is Samsung. The company, which has applied for many patents, may launch smart shirts that can diagnose respiratory diseases, smart shoes that track running fitness, and smart bags and belts in the near future. But you don’t have to wait for patent applications to reach smart clothes!
Nadi X smart yoga pants, produced by Wearable X company, have the feature of correcting your wrong postures with vibrations. The swimsuits developed by Neviano, on the other hand, measure UV rays and warn you to escape into the shade or apply sunscreen. Siren’s smart socks have been specially developed for diabetics. The socks, which measure continuously with the sensors they have, aim to prevent diabetic foot ulcers by notifying the users of the points that increase in temperature and that are likely to develop inflammation.
Virtual Reality (VR) Glasses
VR glasses are wearable technology products consisting of head-mounted screens and sound systems, used for professional purposes such as simulation training or purely entertainment-oriented. These products, which we have witnessed for many years to develop, have attracted a lot of attention in recent years with their lighter and ergonomic designs and accessible prices. VR glasses are divided into two different types, computer-assisted and mobile phone-supported. Occulus Quest 2 and HTC Vive stand out as computer-aided VR glasses that contain all the necessary components.
Google Cardboard, which is the most interesting example of mobile phone supported VR glasses, is the best example that wearable technologies can be a part of our lives even with minimal solutions. Google Cardboard enables you to use VR applications on your mobile phone with a tracking device made of foldable cardboard.
The glasses we use for a smoother vision seem to be the most popular wearable technology product in the near future. This journey, which started with Google Glass Explorer in 2013, has made smart glasses usable in many areas from education to technical support operations with augmented reality (AR) add-ons today. Google Glass could not stay in the market for a long time with privacy concerns and high prices, but it paved the way for initiatives such as Jins Meme, Meta Pro and Wise up.
It is said that Orion, the smart glasses brand developed by Luxottica, the parent company of Facebook and Ray-Ban, and expected to be released between 2023 and 2025, will have augmented reality features and will be controlled by a digital assistant similar to Siri.