The Latest Wearable Technology Trends
From a heart monitor watch to a swimsuit that tells you to reapply SPF, join us in discovering the new wearable tech trends in 2022
Updated: Feb 23, 2022
Published on: Mar 4, 2021
Cellular, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth communications opened the door for the advancement of mobile devices, and in particular, wearable technologies. Different from phones and tablets, wearable mobile devices attach to the body or are embedded in clothing. Some medical wearables are even implanted within the body.
While some wearable devices are designed more for function than aesthetics, new wearable tech trends combine fashion with function through connected clothing and jewelry.
Modor Intelligence predicts the wearable technology market to top $74 billion by 2026, increasing by $46 billion from 2020. Industries sharing in the blossoming market, and the profits, include fitness, healthcare, manufacturing, entertainment, and wellness.
Smart devices and gadgets are in a high growth period, with tech giants and startups joining this innovative landscape. Before walking through some of the latest wearable technology trends available today, or still under development, let’s begin by laying the groundwork for all things wearable-related, alongside the technology that powers these small but powerful devices.
What is Wearable Technology?
First off, Wearable Technology could be categorized as an umbrella term, since it includes a wide range of smart devices, ranging from smart wear, including fashion technology, wearables, tech togs, streetwear technology, and skin or fashion electronics. The devices that constitute Wearable Technology are worn close to and/or on the skin’s surface and can detect, track, analyze and transmit a wide range of data and information concerning a patient’s body signals (for example, vital signs) which in some cases allows for immediate action to be taken and/or ambient data, a feature that in other cases also provides immediate biofeedback to the patient/wearer.
Wearable devices also make up what’s known as the Internet of Things (IoT), a category of physical objects or devices that possess some sort of “smart” capability: from sensors to processors, which can run software applications to other technologies, IoT’s, and therefore, Wearable devices, can connect, transmit and exchange data with other devices over the Internet or other types of communication networks, with a manufacturer and/or other connected devices, without the need for human intervention. This in turn means that Wearable Technology as a whole acts as a time and cost-efficient way of automating certain processes for both patients and medical facilities.
Alongside being part of the Internet of Things and the numerous advantages that this category signifies, Wearable Technology not only includes the devices’ hardware, but also the software that allows them to perform all these features. As the field continues to expand, a variety of applications continue to be developed for this specific type of devices. Thanks to the popularization of consumer electronics such as the smartwatch and the multitude of activity trackers available on today’s market -which we will discuss in the next sections- Wearables are not only primarily used with a medical focus and to aid certain treatments, but also are great tools for fitness aficionados, since they provide them more information that helps track their calories to achieve their health-related goals. Apart from these patient-related and commercial uses, Wearables are slowly becoming more present and diversifying the number of industries they are used in. We are starting to see this technology being incorporated into navigation systems, the development of advanced textiles, next to the palpable increase of Wearable Technology in the healthcare industry.
In the next few sections, we will discuss the latest Wearable Technology developments available in today’s market. If you are interested in deepening your understanding of this emerging technology, keep reading to find out more about them!
Incredibly popular and versatile, smartwatches top the list of emerging wearable technology trends. Available on Apple and Android platforms, users benefit from a variety of functionalities including:
- Notifications that mirror a smartphone’s notification settings like email and text alerts.
- Scheduling and organizational tools like alarms or appointment setting tools
- Apps like GPS mapping tools or fitness trackers. As well as having access to maps and GPS directions, smartphones nowadays can also locate your phone and keys, if compatible and connected to the same IDs. Imagine running late and having trouble finding your car keys or phone? The small device on your wrist could easily locate all your devices in seconds!
- Music, audiobooks, and streaming files synchronized with (or without) a smartphone or tablet
- Placing and receiving calls and text messages. Some recent smartwatch models have a built-in sim card that allows users to also make and receive calls directly from their wrist, thus increasing its multipurpose strategy
- Emergency calls and fall detection. Thanks to their drop sensors, smartwatches can automatically detect and alert the user and their emergency contacts if they happen to fall. In the event of the wearer not responding to a smartwatch alert within a short period, it will automatically make an emergency call to their designated emergency contacts, even if their smartphone is not close by. In this case, the smartwatch acts as an extension of the users’ smartphone, creating an accessible and convenient ecosystem for the user, since the watch is mostly kept connected to their phone and attached to the user’s wrist.
General-purpose smartwatches offer a wide variety of functionalities, while other smartwatches operate for specific use-cases like fitness trackers, biometric monitors, or physical activities like hiking or diving.
In the healthcare field, devices like the Apple Watch can track blood oxygen levels and take an electrocardiogram (ECG) that measures the user’s heart rate and rhythm in real-time. This data can alert the user of a potential cardiac event before it happens, and users can share the information with a healthcare provider for long-term monitoring and evaluation.
The list of manufacturers is growing, but the most popular smartwatches are Apple, Samsung, Garmin, FitBit (owned by Google), and Sony. To satisfy those with high-end tastes, Montblanc offers a luxury line of smartwatches. These technology leaders use sensors to collect data and Bluetooth technologies to transfer that data from the wearable device to a mobile app.
Smart jewelry is also a burgeoning wearable technology trend and is convenient to wear. Essentially, smart jewelry is a category of wearables that look like they can be worn outside the gym, do not scream technology right in your face, and are more suitable for everyday wear or more elegant occasions.
These Wearables achieve the same results as regular smartwatches or wristbands, with the benefit of looking like high-end jewelry pieces. They can adapt to all the accessories you can imagine: from rings, bracelets to earrings and pendants, and might look like normal jewelry pieces, but on the inside, they are technology-powered devices that not only look good on the outside but help the user feel good on the inside and achieve their health goals.
As well as tracking different types of biometrics, by adding Smart Technology to a ring, bracelet, or necklace, wearers can track their activity or improve their well-being through vibration therapy or a reminder to meditate.
Some smart jewelry even goes to the extent of containing geo-tracking technology and alert systems. Tapping on the device notifies loved ones or emergency responders if the wearer needs help and transmits their location for faster response times.
One of the most popular connected jewelers, Oura designed a smart ring to provide wearers with 12 health scores from data captured throughout the day and night. The data helps users maintain balance in their life and achieve optimal mental and physical health.
Bellabeat creates smart jewelry for women that can be worn as bracelets or necklaces, or clipped to the wearer’s clothing. Their product line includes wearable devices for hydration and wellness tracking and can even track menstrual cycles.
A wrist wearable, the HeartGuide developed by OMRON Healthcare, includes an inflatable cuff on the band’s interior, allowing it to take clinically accurate blood pressure readings. While the device might look like a smartwatch, it’s the first wearable blood pressure monitor to hit the market.
Other smart jewelry is designed to monitor stress levels or sleep patterns, or even record voice memos. The functionality is almost as broad as the metals and gemstones used for these gadgets’ aesthetic design and appeal. And like smartwatches, smart jewelry is dependent on sensors to collect data for transfer to an app for processing, reporting, and storage.
The fitness industry leads the charge in the development of connected apparel. Whether a biker, runner, or gym rat, athletes enjoy the convenience of technology in their workout gear. From yoga pants to shirts to sports bras, smart garments designed for athletes track their biometrics, muscle contractions, and UV exposure.
Beyond the fitness world, healthcare and wellness also see a place for smart clothing in their industries. Siren created a connected sock designed to monitor foot temperature, which could indicate inflammation or injury. For patients with diabetes or neuropathy, early detection aids in reducing the progression of the foot condition to a more serious medical event.
Spinali Design, based out of France, created a line of swimwear to alert beach-goers when it’s time to get out of the sun or apply more sunscreen.
In keeping with the connection to UV rays, Spinali Designs is currently developing smart gloves that use the sun’s rays, in combination with titanium dioxide, to destroy bacteria on the hands. These disinfecting gloves purport to kill a variety of pollutants and viruses, including Ebola and COVID-19.
The technology behind smart clothing is meshed wiring woven directly into the fabric, embedded hardware, and Bluetooth connectivity that connects the data collected with a smartphone app. Alongside wires being meshed directly into the items’ fabric, another key benefit of smart clothing is as simple as the fact that users can easily throw it in the washing machine. Most of the smart clothing items available on the market nowadays only require a small box or clip (usually magnetic) that contains all data and essentially makes the wearable work. Once that device is removed, you can easily stick your pile of clothes in the washing and proceed to wash them with the rest of your clothes. Despite the latter, there are still many smart clothing items that don’t play nice with water, so you should be careful and research which ones are water-friendly.
The third benefit has to do with data accuracy. Although stats don’t lie, sometimes they aren’t as accurate as they should be. An ongoing debate has to do with the role that smart clothing could possess in providing more reliable biometric data, mainly because their sensors sit closer to those areas that need to be monitored. For instance, smart shirts or tops implement the same reliable EKG heart rate monitoring technology that’s currently used in chest straps such as Polar H10 or Garmin Run. In regards to lower body monitoring, wearing smart clothing embedded with motion sensors can aid in the prediction of more acute muscle-tracking activity, which can also allow for the study of muscle-related conditions.
Furthermore, smart clothing’s biggest advantage is that it tracks more data. As clothes are embedded with multiple sensors throughout the user’s body, logically there’s an increase in the areas monitored, which therefore means an expansion of the biometric data recorded that allows the user for a deeper understanding of their own body as well contributing to general scientific research purposes.
Lastly, for some users, comfort is the main deal-breaker when it comes to wearing these devices. It all comes down to user preferences: whether you enjoy wristbands or smartwatches more than smart clothing has to do with your activities, biometrics you would like to keep an eye on, or simply just because you enjoy one type of wearable over the other. Despite some users preferring smart clothing over other types of wearables, it is important to bear in mind that many smart clothes items also offer a compression fit and sometimes can even have a bulky fit mainly since they have to support the “Smart” part of the item, meaning the wires that make the wearable work.
Glasses, head-mounted displays, and Bluetooth headsets create the ultimate hands-free experience while enhancing personal and professional activities. Google Glass was all the rage in 2014, but ultimately the product didn’t find the right market fit. While Google’s smart glasses didn’t last long, they did inspire other startups to jump into the wearable market.
Vuzix leads the industry in augmented reality (AR) technology through its smart glasses product line. Focused on the manufacturing, field services, warehousing, and telemedicine industries, Vuzix uses AR to assist workers in training, improve efficiencies, and provide a platform for real-time collaboration.
Head-mounted displays use a technology called optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that projects reflections in the display, providing instruction or other information the user can see through. Users continue to see unobstructed reality but have the added benefit of additional, contextual information based on their current view.
Gaming, military, or aviation training exercises, as well as surgical procedures, often use virtual reality wearables. These devices create a virtual experience with which the user can interact in a risk-free environment.
Flip around display technology, and you’ll find head-mounted cameras providing a bird’s eye view of the action. Whether used in sports, recording personal events and activities, or assisting law enforcement, wearable cameras are available as headware or attached to the user’s clothing.
For underdeveloped countries with high infant mortality rates, Neopenda is developing a baby hat to measure temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood oxygen levels in newborns. A single tablet can monitor up to 24 baby hats, giving medical staff the ability to monitor a full nursery in a single glance.
humm is using neuroscience to create a wearable patch designed to boost memory and focus without the use of stimulants like caffeine. Scientists identified the brainwaves that affect human cognition and the humm patch stimulates these brainwaves to enhance theta waves (a type of brainwave) that improve memory and attention. Look for this product to hit the market in 2022.
Smart headwear uses the same Bluetooth communication as other smart devices and incorporates virtual and augmented reality, OHMD technology, and artificial intelligence (AI). Companies that use smart headwear as a training and collaboration tool can evaluate data and use AI to improve processes and train staff through others’ recorded and augmented experiences.
Stay Tuned for the Future of Wearable Technology Trends
When it comes to the internet of things (IoT), wearable tech has made its mark, positioning itself for continued growth into the foreseeable future. New products will continue to hit the professional and consumer markets as current tech leaders and startups innovate, explore, and create.
Wearable technology already has a sizable footprint in fitness and healthcare, from providing devices to enhance athletic performance to identifying early signs of heart disease. Wellness wearables help us reduce stress, sleep better, and tend to our mental well-being and physical health. And for the fashion-forward, smart jewelry and connected apparel markets are on the rise.
When developing wearables, it’s important to consider the entire wearable ecosystem including the device itself, connections with smartphones or other systems, user onboarding, and data collection, analysis and reporting. Using an experienced development partner will help you define the entire scope of the work and tie all the pieces together into an elegant, holistic solution.
It’s an exciting time to be in the tech world, and especially to be building mobile and new wearable tech. At December Labs we specialize in UX research, design, and development of cutting-edge technology for wearables in healthcare and more. We’d love to join your product team and collaborate on your next innovation. Email us today!