Here to stay or just a fad?
Smartphones have made a significant impact in our lives and many are wondering whether strapping one onto your arm before a run (or a leisurely jog…in my case) is really the way forward. Wearable technology is on its way in. Or is it?
As the name suggests, wearable technology are devices worn by users in the form of jewellery, clothing, watches and other accessories. These new devices are beginning to integrate into people’s daily activities more and more. A vast number of wearable devices currently gather real-time information about physical activity levels. Products in the market at the moment are also helping people accomplish challenging fitness goals.
Why would anyone use them?
Strapping these devices on is close to having a personal trainer available 24/7. They can help monitor and make the user more aware of current exercise levels. In a world capturing more and more information, these devices can track health related activities such as heart beats per minute, daily steps and resting heart rate. Like me, some find this perturbing. Would you want some random device or ‘cloud’ storing this personal information of yours?
Nevertheless, the popularity of wearable technology in fitness stems from a rising trend called ‘the quantified self.’ A term that describes people who want to gather data about their daily routine in order to move towards a healthier lifestyle and develop better fitness routines.
Here are some ways in which wearable technology can play a significant role in keeping fit, healthy and looking good:
Some wearable devices can effectively help motivate the user against sluggishness and inactivity. These devices are pre-loaded with some sophisticated sensors that measure whole-body movement. For example, based on a user’s average daily routine, it can set a goal for the number of steps to be taken the following day.
The numbers themselves may not always be a strong long-term motivator for everyone but using numbers when linked with other motivation strategies could help those who feel like they could do with this data.
Take for example, the wearable device: Vivofit, which flashes a bright red light that indicates inactivity if the user has been in a prolonged seating posture. The constant sight of the alert may motivate a user out of their seat and move around – making the red light vanish. As yet, it can’t tell if you’re eating a cake – in which case, it should really be playing Happy Birthday. It’s a start though.
Wearable technology has taken work-out sessions to a whole new level by giving live feedback on speed, type and quality of exercise moves.
The accuracy of some devices are such that they can differentiate between a push-up and a triangular push-up and give an array of information telling the user how each manoeuvre is affecting their body, how quickly the heart recovers after each one is done and so on.
3. Rest and recovery
Some devices help improve the quality of sleep. They can measure sleeping patterns with the help of a built-in accelerometer by detecting motion during those hours and thereby capture the stages of sleep.
Analysing this data can give great insights into the number of hours of deep and restorative sleep, how long it takes to fall asleep and improve rest, recovery and sleeping conditions.
Wearable technology could also be a help for anyone looking to shed some pounds. No longer does the user need to rely on manually entering calorie intake or mentally making notes or vague estimates on how much to consume.
Some devices can even tell you the ideal speed that you should be having a meal at, so that it leads to proper digestion!
Others claim to be able to analyse the chemical composition and nutritional content of a meal and keep a user informed if allergic to certain foods or what to avoid if prone to certain intolerances.
What’s next on the horizon
Since wearable technology started entering the media spotlight, engineers have also started working with designers and affixing it to clothing.
Today, the spot light is predominantly on function rather than style and a wide range of clothing items like shirts, t-shirts and shorts that feature small sensors monitoring heart rate, calories burned and should you want it, the amount of UV one is exposed to, is becoming available.
Some smart clothing even has quirky applications like measuring your body dimensions in a matter of seconds and connecting it with your smartwatch which could come in handy when next doing some online shopping!
In any event, it seems that there are some uses for wearable tech and I think we can expect it to evolve in interesting, novel and hopefully with time, some panache too.