No Longer Geeky, Wearables Are Style Statements

There has been a dramatic improvement in the availability, variety and performance of wearable devices, thanks to technological advancements in areas like batteries, materials, processors and sensors. Let’s take a look at some of the hottest devices in this space. - Janani Gopalakrishnan Vikram is a technically-qualified freelance writer, editor and hands-on mom based in Chennai

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During training, most professional football players wear a small tracker under their shirt. The tracker is embedded with a range of sensors like accelerometers, gyroscopes and compasses, as well as a GPS chip and other bits of technology. With this, it becomes possible to track players’ position, direction, speed of moving across the field, acceleration or deceleration, and more. By combining data gathered by the trackers worn by multiple players, it becomes possible to study their relative positions and the impact of each jump and tackle. This helps to determine why a game turned out to be the way it did, and learn lessons for future games.

Such training aids are helpful for amateurs too. For instance, Catapult’s Playertek smart vest can not only improve your game but also compare you with top premier league players!

Players benefit from technology embedded in clothes, which collect data to help them analyse and improve their game (Source: Playertek)
Players benefit from technology embedded in clothes, which collect data to help them analyse and improve their game (Source: Playertek)

Indeed, wearable technology has matured beyond our imagination. Although smartwatches, fitness bands and virtual reality headsets continue to top this space, there is a lot more technology to wear today. You can wear technology devices as a watch or band, stick on like a patch, attach to your shirt like a cufflink, or show off in the form of fashion jewellery! Coming in exciting, highly fashionable and artistic forms, these help improve health, fitness, posture, beauty, personal safety, coaching, social interactions and more.

There has been a dramatic improvement in the availability, variety and performance of wearable devices, thanks to technological advancements in areas like batteries, materials, processors and sensors. Technology that fitted into a mobile phone sized device a few years ago now fits snugly into a small and flexible patch that you can stick on your body or stitch onto your dress. As technology uptake improves, concerns about security and privacy are sure to be ironed out. So let us take a look at some of the hottest devices in this space without dampening your enthusiasm.

Watches and bands continue to rock

There is something very convenient about watches and bands—you can just snap them on or remove when you want. This makes them one of the easiest wearable technologies. That said, some expert trend-watchers claim that the popularity of watches and bands has plateaued with the emergence of less obtrusive forms of wearables like patches.

Nevertheless, there were many exciting options on show at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year.

The usual fitness band and smartwatch players came up with newer versions with additional features. Garmin, for example, showcased Forerunner 645 Music, a watch with music support. You can store and play up to 500 songs, neatly organised as playlists. Plus, this watch also includes Garmin Pay support, so you can use it to pay for stuff you buy.

Omron showcased HeartGuide, a blood pressure monitoring smartwatch that can be used for general fitness or healthcare purposes. The watch, which is pending FDA approval, uses an inflatable cuff to take blood pressure readings. You can take oscillometric readings at the press of a button or set the device to automatically take readings throughout the night. The data can then be pushed to a smartphone app and shared with your doctor. The watch is also capable of regular smartwatch tasks like notifications, sleep tracking and step counting.

Hybrids are smart watches with elegant, designer looks (Source: Misfit)
Hybrids are smart watches with elegant, designer looks (Source: Misfit)

Casio unveiled a rugged sports watch, GPR-B1000, with solar-powered GPS navigation. A five-hour charge enables standard GPS functioning for 33 hours. Thereafter the watch can instantly resume its GPS functioning if held in bright light. If left in sunlight for four hours, the watch gains enough solar charge to operate the GPS for an hour more. So, you can continue running even after sunset.

Casio’s Triple Sensor technology collects compass bearing, atmospheric pressure, altitude and temperature data. Navigation features are similar to other on-watch navigation systems such as Garmin and Tom-Tom. The screen is small, but the route is visible enough for you to stay on track. You can zoom in and out if required. The dust-proof and dirt-proof watch can withstand harsh weather conditions, and is a good bet for trekkers!

But, these bulky watches are not for the fashion-conscious folks. Small and elegant hybrid watches are what they like. Hybrid watches look like stylish designer watches with a dial, two arms, et al, but deliver the functionality of smartwatches. These are ideal for people with small wrists who are not comfortable with large sporty smartwatches.

There are several hybrid watches from brands like Armani Exchange, Emporio Armani, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Diesel, DKNY, Tory Burch and Fossil. One of the recent interesting launches is Misfit Path, which is claimed to be Misfit’s smallest hybrid so far. It has a stainless-steel case with matte finishing. A three-axis accelerometer tracks steps, calories burnt, distance travelled, sleep, etc together with the smartphone app that lets you set goals, and create alarms and reminders. It also connects to your smartphone and delivers calls, text messages, emails and notifications. With the press of a button, you can control music, capture photos and locate your phone if you misplace it. The device is water-resistant. Its replaceable battery lasts up to six months, so you need not bother about charging.

Hybrids are smart watches with elegant, designer looks (Source: Misfit)
Hybrids are smart watches with elegant, designer looks (Source: Misfit)
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