Earlier this year, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt described his vision of the ‘disappearance of the Internet,’ in the near future. Schmidt’s comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland may sound like science fiction to some, but for those who keep abreast of progress in wearable technologies, the idea is far from surprising.
“There will be so many IP addresses…so many devices, sensors, things that you are wearing, things that you are interacting with that you won’t even sense it,” he says. “It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room, and the room is dynamic. And with your permission and all of that, you are interacting with the things going on in the room.”
It’s the Internet Of Things that will be responsible for for the pushing the internet into the background of our world. One of the most important areas of the Internet of Thing is Wearable Technology. Wearables take the things we already wear, like jewelry, clothes, and glasses, and makes them more useful with technology.
Apple’s iWatch, Google’s Glass, Facebook’s Oculus Rift, the Fitbit3, Jawbone, Moto 360 are all impressive examples of current wearable tech. However, in terms of where the industry is going, we’ve only taken the first step down this path.
In 2013, Dr. Parekh used Google Glass in the operating room for the very first time. Since then, according to the New York Times, this pioneering surgeon has used the wearable headset to “record and archive all of his surgeries at Duke, and soon he will use it to stream live feeds of his operations to hospitals in India as a way to train and educate orthopaedic surgeons there”.
Since then, the use of smart watches and headsets has become increasingly popular in some of the world’s leading healthcare institutions. Wearables like smart watches help to ensure that nurses don’t miss vital steps via checklists and automatic logging of events. The possibilities don’t end there: a doctor could use Google Glass to scan a barcode at the end of your hospital bed (or a Motorola smart tattoo on your arm) to immediately pull up your medical records. Or, imagine a doctor being able to observe the vital stats of at-risk patients in real time, even when the patient is at home.
The improvements in efficiency and accuracy of treatment produced by just current wearable tech is staggering. “Some hospitals [are already] linking them with near complete elimination of bloodstream infections and lowering death rates by 10%”, says Michal Kubacki, CEO of the 5-Tiles Keybord.
On the alternate side of the clipboard, what if that smart-watch on your wrist and the Fitbit clipped to your belt can offer offer your doctor all the data she needs for a more accurate diagnosis? Your doctor will instantly be able to see your calorific intake, heart-rate variability, stress levels, exercise regimes, sleep patterns, cholesterol, blood-glucose levels and more, instantly.
Back in January 2014, Google announced their first ‘Smart Contact Lens Project‘, hinting at a lens that can track blood glucose levels in real time. In the future, this could be a literal life-saver for the millions of diabetics out there.
The potential unlocked when a doctor, surgeon or even mobile app has access to this huge data-set is mind-boggling. This is an industry under constant pressure to improve survival rates, cleanliness, and accuracy. Could Wearable Tech be the magic bullet here? This is all without mentioning the richness of possibilities of crowd-sourcing medical knowledge and data.
For better or worse, consumerism is a major factor in our lives — but how we experience that consumerism is about to change. We’re talking primarily about customer service, here. After all, with wearable tech leading to increased efficiency in the workplace, how can retail companies resist?
Imagine, Mr. Smith walking into his local department store. Around him, the service staff are wearing headsets and smart watches that can pick up on the NFC chips that are in his own smart watch. Based on the data they can receive (past purchases, browsing history, perhaps even the mood that he’s in), they can recommend something completely personal.
“Ah Mr Smith, welcome back! That lovely cashmere sweater you were looking on the site is just over here. As luck should have it, we’ve got one in your size!”
Mr Smith falls in love with his new cashmere sweater, and a few other items the sales assistant’s headset thought he’d like. When he gets to the checkout, he simply taps his watch against a sensor on the wall (which has detected which items he’s carrying around), payment is made automatically, and the receipt is sent via email.
This may seem a little too far in the future – but it really isn’t. The facial recognition software to know when a high-value customer walks into the door already exists. The chips are already in your phone to ensure that you receive relevant, timely coupons and vouchers when you walk into your favorite stores. The apps needed for this kind of customer service are aleady being developed by companies such as SalesForce. This is simply a logical extension of existing tech, and it may just be closer than we think.
Last year, Ralph Lauren gave us a glimpse of the Polo Tech smart shirt. This (along with some other examples) are the impressive, sometimes confusing early stages of truly wearable tech. That is to say, tech that’s inside your actual clothes and accessories.
According to Mashable, the Polo Tech smart shirt uses “biometric technology from OMSignal and the signature design of Ralph Lauren. Put it on and it reads activity (steps, how long you’re active), breathing and heart rate and delivers it all in real-time to your Bluetooth-connected smartphone”. Before long, this kind of kit may well be a necessity in your gym bag, logging your workouts automatically, and sending over the results to your personal trainer (if you’re more into jogging, check out the GPS enabled DShirt).
Underneath that back of fabric are silver-yarn-based sensors. This fabric, which is also anti-microbial, is conductive and can read the expansion and compression of the chest as you breathe and together read the electrical changes associated with heart rate.
But there are plenty of other examples that could be seen as technological prophecies of what’s to come. Take, for instance, Ring, which Kickstarter users went crazy for not too long ago. Think Adam Sandler’s favourite remote control in the movie Click, only smaller, and more aesthetically pleasing. Through small, physical gestures, you’re able to control home appliances (lights, heating, the TV, radio, bath, front door, etc), all thanks to the ring on your finger.
And for neurotic parents out there, why not introduce your new-born baby to the wearable tech world with some smart nappies. By using sensors to sense the health of your young one’s poop, you can rest assured that your child has healthy kidneys, and plenty of hydration.
The time is approaching when backpacking and more general travel (especially in more developed countries) is transformed into something almost unrecognisable. The frustrations of not knowing which bus stop to alight at. The hassle of walking into hotels to ask for room rates. The inconvenience of needing to physically locate and read about buildings and sights of interest. The bewilderment of understanding precisely nothing of what the locals are saying. These are just a few of the travel challenges that may be erased thanks to wearable tech.
Before you even leave home-soil, passports may become a thing of the past, as border control scans your facial features and knows exactly who you are. From the moment you land at your destination, your connected headset (by then the entire world may be covered by 4G) knows where your hotel is (HotelNearMe). Directions to the nearest train station will be displayed literally in front of your face (Map2Glass). When there, you’ll receive a notification telling you which platform to head to, and what time your train will be departing. As you enter the train the bluetooth in your smart watch is detected. When you alight, the system knows exactly what to charge your bank account.
As you leave the train station, you’re surrounded by historical buildings, each one with it’s own unique history. You simply ask your headset to give you an audio (and visual) tour of the immediate area (using incognito Dash headphones, of course), before you eventually arrive at your hotel, where the receptionist doesn’t speak a word of English. Luckily, you’ve installed an app that offers real time audio translation from a foreign language into your own. Checking in is seamless.
And finally, before you head out, your phone alerts you as to the best restaurant nearby to grab dinner based on your preferences and past habits, and reserves a table for you (OpenTable). The menu is translated right in front of your eyes with that swish new app you downloaded while waiting at the airport.
Ah, the ever contentious issues of citizen and the police. Well, expect to see law enforcement officers ‘on the beat’ becoming far more connected and technologically advanced in the coming years. All things going well, this will help to ensure both police officers and members of the public are held accountable for their actions.
Back in 2013, NYPD obtained two pairs of Google Glass to see how they could integrate these into their day-to-day operations. According to TIME magazine, Byron Police Department in Georgia were also playing with the kit. “The wearable computer allowed the officer to record everything he was seeing for future reference, and because it was also linked to the department’s video system, it let his bosses back at the police station monitor how the traffic stop was going in real time.”
But these predictable uses are only a couple of examples. We can also envision police officers being able to pull up instant background checks (and license checks) of people and vehicles within their field of vision using facial and text recognition software, making your anonymity ever more elusive. One prediction from GovTech sees “the facial recognition camera technology that is already installed at most security gates at airports being integrated into smart glasses, so that a police officer walking down a crowded street would automatically be alerted to the presence of a suspect walking towards him”.
To expand on this, Motorola is also currently working on a “connected law enforcement officer of the future system, expected to boast a set of glasses with an integrated display for access to camera feeds, so an officer potentially can see around corners without having to be exposed to an ambush”.
Pretty neat, right? Combine this with the wearable video recording equipment that’s being developed with law enforcement very much in mind (such as the VieVu LE3 and Taser AXON), and you’ll have a pretty clear picture of what to expect on the street, and in the court-rooms.
In terms of relevant tech that you could be using yourself though, consider Artemis, a company producing jewelry that enables you to “instantly access a private security operator who can record and send help”.
How much this will affect your day to day life, is indeed arguable. Yet the use of wearable tech in law-enforcement seems high on the agenda, and something that we’ll all pretty soon get used to seeing, and perhaps rely on, if we’re ever the victim of a crime, or simply if we’re to avoid such rampant congestion on the way to work.
As mentioned, the wearable tech industry is very young. The future is entirely open to every possibility, with the clichéd limit being our imagination. The above are just a select few examples of how we might expect wearable tech to (mostly) positively infiltrate our lives.
What developments in wearable tech do you expect to see in the near future? Let us know in the comments.