How time flies! I wrote up my highlights for WT – Wearable Technologies Conference back in February and forgot to post them. This is a cut-down version of my original notes as I had a gazillion pages – I think less is more in this case, so here is a little insight as to what I saw and heard about…
Smart phone apps and integration were a dominant feature of many presentations and products shown at January’s WT Conference held at Messe München, Germany. I also noted we saw quite a few examples of wearable technology by several companies and speakers presented in bracelet / band form factor, which made me wonder – is this going to be the most popular way of packaging wearable technology for the consumer market for the next couple of years?
A jam-packed day of presentations made it difficult to select my highlights, but my personal shortlist included Dr Paul Lukowicz’s keynote on ‘From Cyborgs to Smart Phones’ where he posed the question ‘So has the smart phone killed the wearable?’ he answered his own question by stating ‘no’ and that the smart phone has made the public ‘ripe for wearable systems’, such as sport and health apps for starters. He described how he thought wearable technology should be ‘ambient’ and be performing tasks in the background whilst the user gets on with their life. He concluded that it’s an exciting time for wearable technology because ‘the public accepts the need for it and so it has the potential to be huge’.
I definitely concur, with Paul that smart phones have made an excellent ‘in’ for the mainstream public to get into and used to integrating wearable technology into their lives. Also that ambient systems, for example monitoring one’s blood pressure or diary continually in the background and only alerting the wearer/user when they need to be informed is one of the biggest advantages of us being able to wear powerful, small computers.
David Icke talked about stretchable, conformal electronics on the human body and the challenges of rigid and brittle electronics that historically don’t bend and stretch, thus making it difficult to produce comfortable wearable technology that stretches and moves with the wearer’s body. He showed an example of stretchable epidermal electronics that could be used for sensing vitals signs, track the user’s voice, as well as having potential for gaming use. He summarised that electronics worn on and inside the body will revolutionise fitness and healthcare.
Less rigid and sharp electronics are definitely essential for making wearable electronics viable – plus they also need to be light and washable and the power management (batteries) aspect needs to be solved as soon as possible – it would be great if we were a bit further ahead with power harvesting technologies for the wearer.
Michaela Klinger discussed how to make the best of smart phone technologies in Telehealth, plus how necessary standards are for medical wearable technology, giving examples such as how the Continua Health Alliance aims to do this. She also made the point that technology for health needs to be secure and if you’re a company thinking of starting out in Telehealth you should be prepared for the most stringent testing via the Medical Device Directive.
For me the most interesting part of Micheala’s talk was around standards and directives, as you can imagine with all this blossoming technology for health, areas such as privacy and storage of data are of paramount importance – as well as secure systems so the technology itself can’t be hacked. Plus it’s obvious that we need stringent standards & guidelines for technology that regulates something as crucial to the wearer as an insulin pump or a pacemaker. There were three presentations in the afternoon about various approaches to tackling diabetes via wearable technology and it was very interesting so observe how their technology varied and what safeguards were built into them, plus the sustainability of the products and how comfortable they looked. It also seemed very prudent that with various systems being developed, some kind of interoperability was needed.
I enjoyed my trip to München, for WT Conference, there seemed to be a lot of convergence of ideas and great company from colleagues and friends I’d met at previous companies. Overall I came away still extremely excited about developments in wearable technology and 2012 is definitely the year that wearable technology will go mainstream. I’d definitely go again.