Wearable Technology Show 2018: focus remains on health and fitness devices
Image credit: Wearable Technology Show 2018
Health and fitness devices continued to dominate at this year’s Wearable Technology Show in London, while some exhibitors presented products intending to widen the appeal of wearables.
The dominance and influence of Fitbit’s popular products in the wearables sector was clear, with many health and fitness monitoring products following its lead, particularly with monitoring of heart rate and other vital signs.
FirstBeat, for instance, offers heartbeat analytics using watch-like devices for monitoring and analysing pulse, in order to improve fitness regimes. AliveCor launched ‘Smart Rhythm’ at the show; used in conjunction with the Apple Watch, this software monitors heart rate and notifies the user to record a medical-grade ECG immediately if it detects any unusual activity. This ECG can be emailed to a doctor for quick diagnosis. By lowering the number of false positives that may cause health anxiety, Smart Rhythm is meant to provide reassurance to its wearers, said Francis White, VP sales and business development at AliveCor.
Meanwhile, Equivital put on show a set of connected sensors intended to be worn around the chest for intense or dangerous tasks, such as rescue missions, military training or investigating disaster scenes; this allows for the monitoring of a group undergoing a mission and the identification of any individuals at risk. Equivital worked with Red Bull to monitor Felix Baumgartner during his leap from the edge of space in 2012, during which he broke the sound barrier.
Celebrating its world launch at the show, WITgrip presented a method for wearing technologies as large as smartphones on the inside of the wrist, intending to make them more immediately accessible for anybody who finds taking things out of their pocket a bit of a struggle.
STATSports, which boasts having the “most powerful wearable in sport”, put on show a small capsule-shaped device, Apex, which can be worn in the back of an athlete’s shirt, offering GPS tracking to precision of 30cm in addition to other data, such as heart rate. This data is transferred to and stored in the cloud where coaches and players can access the information.
The dominance of health- and fitness-focused devices at the show is unsurprising; during a presentation on the future of wearables in the consumer market, Justin Marshall, associate director at YouGov, said that other smartwear and accessories are struggling in comparison with fitness wear and watches. YouGov has found that Fitbit holds more than half the total wearables market at 52 per cent, with Apple following behind at 17 per cent.
Familiarity with wearables is growing among consumers, Marshall reported, with the fraction of the population using wearables growing from two per cent in summer 2014 to 13 per cent, although there are many more inactive wearable owners.
A number of stallholders at the show presented components or techniques that could render wearables appealing beyond their core of tech enthusiasts. For instance, a company called Jewel Tech has been inserting technologies such as payment chips inside tasteful jewellery.
“Not everyone wants a great big lump of rubber on their wrist,” a Jewel Tech spokesperson commented; he suggested that all small wearable devices should come in at least four different designs to suit consumers’ various preferences.
ZSK Technical Embroidery Systems presented industrial machinery capable of embroidering with conductive thread. This thread is thin, delicate, and feels more like metallic embroidery floss than the wires that preceded it; it looks just as good on fabric as conventional embroidery thread. Embroidering designs allows for attractive and multifunctional circuits to be created on clothing.
According to a ZSK spokesperson, the company is hoping that a reduction in the size of power packs (which currently have to be hidden in a pocket) may help this technology take off. The spokesperson commented that Apple and Google may be experimenting with applications of the firm’s embroidery technique.
Other wearables on show included noise-cancelling earbuds, QuietOn Sleep, marketed as helpful for frequent flyers frustrated by the sound of other passengers snoring, outdoor clothing by Blaze Wear containing heating elements which can heat up in just 10 seconds, and a pair of smart incontinence knickers developed by design agency Zinc, which track leakage with a companion app.