Smartly dressed: The increasing impact of wearable tech

Andrew Woods
- Leadership - Aug 08, 2017

Smart shoes, wearable payment rings and clothing installed with disease-detection devices, technology has revolutionised fashion…

However, while smart watches, jewelry and other fun pieces continue to be popular with consumers, the amount of movement and innovation in wearable technology in the healthcare market is equally staggering. The high rate of benefit combined with low costs makes wearable tech tempting to patients, providers and facilities.

While innovations like heart rate monitors and other home health devices are already in use in both the USA and Europe, new innovations are coming, according to the European Academic Network for Open Innovation. Patients are already receiving better outcomes and better quality care via wearable technology. From seniors with dementia who can be safely tracked in a geofenced area to heart patients who can be monitored from afar, wearable tech is improving lives.

The latest generation of wearable tech is more ‘condition specific’ than previous models with innovations in monitoring and treating conditions like epilepsy and Parkinson’s emerging from firms like Belgium’s UCB. Erik Janssen, UCB: “At UCB, we have a very innovative approach to developing solutions for severe conditions like epilepsy and Parkinson’s which places patient value at the heart of everything we do. 

“For us, partnering with digital technology specialists is a key element of our mission. We recognize the neurological conditions we’re focused on are very complex and that technology and digital innovations have the potential to provide significant benefits and support to patients. Alongside our existing innovation projects, which focus on diverse areas such as predictive analytics and wearable technologies, we’re actively looking for new and additional partners to work alongside to provide new solutions that we believe could make a huge difference to patients’ lives.”


Another leader in this area is Mary Lou Jepsen who founded health tech start-up Open Water, which is producing wearable MRIs. Jepsen wants to help doctors discover cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's with affordable disease detectors. 

Temperature sensitive clothing

Another European wearable technology start-up is focused on creating not small, single purpose pieces, but whole garments that can sense body temperature and adjust itself accordingly. Designed to keep users warm during outdoor activities, the garments use sensors to detect when the user is getting too cold or uncomfortable.

Once an uncomfortable temperature is discovered, clothing from Clim8 is designed to warm up automatically to a safer, more comfortable temperature. When the user has warmed up again, the French start-up’s clothing continues to regulate body heat based on the wearer’s predetermined preferences. Under Armour is producing smart athletics shoes, a market that Samsung is getting involved with, with its new smart golf shoe that can help you perfect your swing.

Fabric flooded with light

Swedish wearable technology firm Light Flex integrates light and fabric; resulting in activewear and accessories for sports and activities. By fusing light with fabric and garments, the company makes wearable technology in clothing form.

While most innovations are focused on gadgetry, Light Flex has taken a different approach, creating larger pieces and full garments infused with technology, such as the Expedition Parka it created with Helly Hansen – with life-saving light pads – which was the winner of the 2017/18 ISPO Award.

Virtual reality glasses

After a false dawn in the 90s, VR headsets are now making sense. The ability to connect to your phone, laptop and games console was the missing link that moved headsets on from merely allowing you to walk aimlessly around a computer-generated room. Samsung, Google, HTC, Oculus and Sony are going big on VR and Finish start-up Varjo has developed a set that is 70 times faster than HTC’s Vive.

High style meets wearable technology

Since most wearable technology is spare and unadorned, companies like Ringly and EJOY are giving this technology a much-needed makeover as handcrafted, high-style jewellery meets wearable tech. Ringly has range of ‘wearable payment’ rings that can authenticate transactions through your unique heartbeat signature.

Italian brand EJOY is one of many companies approaching wearable technology with an eye on the style. ‘It will be possible to wear a designer product that integrates into a real jewel two basic functions: the notification of the activities of the smartphone and different types of reminders, and the monitoring of the physical activities related to the well-being of our consumers,’ the company says. Meanwhile, Google is preparing to wade into the smart watch sector with pieces carrying GPS and LTE.

Wearable tech for pets

From the ability to track your pet from afar to collar-based monitors that assess your cat or dog’s activity level and general health, innovations for pet owners continue to dominate the wearables market. In the UK, PitPatPet has produced a monitor that will help you track your dog’s level of fitness and activity; you’ll get alerts when your pet needs more exercise or isn’t up to his usual level of activity.

In the USA, PetPace aims to help you track your cat – not only his whereabouts, but his current state of health, from his heart rate to his other vital signs and even his activity levels. By tracking your cat’s physical health and location you can have peace of mind that your pet is fine, even if you are not at home. Real time updates and information ensure you can always know what your pet is up to.

As wearable technology becomes more commonplace and more acceptable to consumers, the desire for better looking, more fashionable pieces is on the rise as well; companies like EJOY fill this previously overlooked spot in the market.

From innovations for pets to clothing that adjusts to suit the wearer’s preferences, the latest innovations go beyond the simple fitness band. By focusing on health, safety, peace of mind and comfort, these innovative companies are bringing new and exciting products to consumers and ensuring that wearables continue to surge in popularity.

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