The first tech event to kick off this year came in the form of the CES 2016. This event arguably lays down the blueprint for technology and innovations this year, and in this regard there are four major sectors which have lots of potential: IoT, AR/VR, Connected Cars and Wearables.
While all four concepts are pretty exciting to say the least, let’s bring the focus to the wearable space at CES 2016. The wearable scene is truly shaping out to be a game changing environment for the consumer electronics space, and in this article, I’ll talk about the new wearables which have been unveiled, and a few key trends to look out for in this segment.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Let’s begin with a few trackers that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing as an integral part of the Quantified Self. Companies such as Withings, Mio, Fitbit and Misfit among others took the covers off their new devices.
Withings launched their Go – a clip on fitness tracker with a long lasting replacable battery, waterproof casing and an e-ink display. Mio launched their Slice band with a new workout metric called PAI (Personal Activity Intelligence) which actively studies the user’s habits and designs workouts that are apparently guaranteed to ‘work out’ (couldn’t resist) for the user. Misfit’s Ray is a sleek capsule-y sleep and activity tracker.
Fitbit launched their smartwatch for 2016 in the form of the Fitbit Blaze – a watch which takes some inspiration from the Fitbit Surge (and the Apple Watch too, but let’s look beyond the superficialities) and does not include a built in GPS – so it utilises the smartphone’s module for that. It’s capable of showing alerts, notifications and calendar events.
Casio too announced their foray into the Android Wear space through their WSD-F10 watch. Honor launched their sleep and activity tracking Band Z1. Razer’s Nabu smartwatch can track steps and show notification alerts too.
Smartwatches and wrist band based activity trackers were prominently seen at CES 2016. However, the devices mentioned above work on standard QS principles and present old, tried and tested concepts in new devices. Mio’s take on the Personal Activity Intelligence parameter seems somewhat interesting – it takes the user’s data before suggesting workouts – maybe sometime in the near future we could have wearables recommending workout plans and diets too?
FASHION IN WEARABLES
Moving on from the layer of new devices, let’s focus on some trends seen at CES 2016.
I’ve already spoken about how wearables are moving on to become more of fashion accessories with tracking capabilities incorporated, and some of the launches at CES 2016 justify this notion.
Take for instance Misfit’s continued association with Swarovski to produce immaculately designed wearable trackers. Or Fossil’s beautiful wearable trackers that combine style and substance.
Martian has been a known name in the smartwatch space, and this time they’ve stepped into the fashion-wearable scene with partnering with Indian jewellers PCJ to produce a smart wearable called the Kindred.
Mira too launched its fashionable wearables which come in the form of bracelets and pendants. Wisewear, along with designer Iris Apfel, produced a bracelet for women which is a fitness tracker and has a focus on women security as well. Smart jewellery was demonstrated in the form of Gemio.
Overall, we’re hearing about lots of collaborations between wearable manufacturers and fashion designers – and this actually points to more wearables being churned out as fashion accessories.
Okay, not your average wearable, we admit. But CES 2016 saw a lot of improvements in wearable tech in the form of clothes which could track your health stats and sync them directly with dedicated smartphone applications.
Hexoskin’s Smart was demoed at CES 2016, and the smart shirt can track the usual parameters such as steps, routes and movement metrics, and even advanced parameters such as heart rate variability and breathing rate volume. The shirt is capable of communicating to the smartphone app via Bluetooth Smart, and has a power source inbuilt.
OMSignal is a company that made heads turn at CES 2016 through their OMbra – a sports bra which records distances run, breathing rates and can connect to almost all popular fitness platforms.
Samsung launched their Smart Suit – a complete formal suit with NFC at the wrists to facilitate unlocking the device and even making payments. There’s a golf shirt which can tell you about the weather conditions or the UV levels outside, and a wellness belt (called WELT) which keeps a track of the number of steps taken, time spent in sitting and eating habits. The Korean corp also launched a bag with integrated solar panels that are capable of charging your phone.
Under Armour launched fitness bands and smart scales too, but one thing which really caught my attention was their smart shoe line, which calculates distance run, along with finer aesthetics such as pace and cadence. There’s a contextual aspect involved as well, and it studies your stride length so that eventually it won’t have to rely on GPS to judge your distance.
Sensoria launched their 2016 lineup of biometric trackers and sensors – which track body fatigue, temperature levels and center of balance – within clothes such as shirts, socks and workout pants. Lumenus designs clothes which record the route you are going to cycle / run on and activates brake lights and turn indicators accordingly. Profusa’s Lumee isn’t smart clothing per se, but a tiny non obtrusive sensor which records health data.
Now, the key point to take away here is that wearables and trackers are not restricted merely to wristbands or headbands – they are also being applied to regular clothing to make the whole tracking experience as non obtrusive as possible. And I believe that this spells out more potential for trackers and the Quantified Self movement.
The Consumer Technology Association predicts that 38 million wearables are going to be sold this year, with fitness trackers growing by 12% and smartwatches growing by 22% as compared to 2015. The onus is not merely on tracking data anymore, but more on bringing about aesthetic appeal and comfort to the functionalities of wearables.
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