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Smart Wearables: The Present and the Future


As per “What is the Internet of Things” on the IoT Agenda, “The Internet of Things, or IoT, is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

In layman’s terms, abiotic and biotic objects that are not ordinarily connected to the Internet, can now accumulate data with the help of sensors/actuators (wired or wireless) embedded in devices and transmit them over the Internet through Internet Gateways to a cloud premise where analytics, management and archival of data is performed and presented to the end user as a set of intelligent inferences. This aforementioned premise is now possible with the help of IoT. Presently, a new technology, Edge IT, has been introduced wherein the analytical assessment of data is done at the sensor/actuator level itself in times of exigencies, to decrease the time taken to transmit the data to the cloud. For instance, a driverless automobile’s sensors pick up an obstacle within 100 meters of its path which requires instant analytical decision making to stop the car. In normal scenarios, this data is transmitted to the cloud where the analysis is done, but in such a moment, the Edge computing starts analyzing the data as soon as the sensors picked up the obstacle information and make a decision to apply brakes at the quickest possible moment to avoid hitting the obstacle.

One such application of IoT is seen extensively in wearables.

According to a report for Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC), the overall wearables market is expected to grow from 113.2 million shipments in 2017 to 222.3 million in 2021 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.4%. Consumers can expect a wide range of wearables being introduced in the coming years which includes sensor-laden intelligent clothing (step counting shoes, smart jackets with sensor-laden fabric) and smart ear-wear (fitness tracking wireless headphones). Recently, Levi’s clothing company collaborated with Google to develop a smart jacket which connects effortlessly to the mobile phone, assisting the user to control music on their phone, get call notifications and receive map directions with a single tap on the jacket cuff.

Following are some of the areas where wearables utilizing IoT technology are making an impact in today’s digital age:

  • Smart ID: The corporate ID card is equipped with IoT technology that provides identification and security within the work environment — identifying the employee and recording swipe-in and swipe-out data, coupled with providing security by not allowing entry to unauthorized personnel. Some of the corporate IDs are also embedded with biometric capabilities such as fingerprint activation, providing enhanced security by allowing only authorized employees to access the workplace facilities.

Recently Estonia has created a digital identity for all its citizens, thus, simplifying the authentication process of people without any type of physical contact. Every Estonian citizen can provide digital signatures using their ID-card, Mobile-ID or Smart-ID, so that they can safely identify themselves and gain access to all of Estonia’s secure e-services. These IoT enabled ID cards are used for:

  • legal travel ID for Estonian citizens traveling within the EU
  • national health insurance card
  • proof of identification when logging into bank accounts
  • digital signatures
  • i-Voting identification
  • checking medical records
  • submitting tax claims
  • using for e-Prescriptions

It has been a huge success in Estonia and around 98% of Estonians have ID-cards and 67% of them use the ID-cards regularly.

  • Fitness Tracking bands: Fitness-oriented bands provide the user with biometric measurement information like heart rate, distance covered while walking/running, calories burnt during exercise, oxygen level in the bloodstream, sleep tracking, etc. These devices use IoT to transmit these values to a connected smartphone for the user to analyze and make intelligent inferences about one’s health. Nowadays, numerous insurance companies are designing their products, claims processing and customer service based on the data provided by the fitness bands worn by their customers. Insurers, with the customer’s approval, can access the data shared by the wearable to provide personalized service and improve customer engagement. For instance, Vitality, the UK health and life insurer, rewards customers for following a healthy lifestyle by accessing data via wearable devices like Garmin, Polar, Fitbit, Apple Watch, etc. An app called FitSense collects insights from mobiles and wearables and enables insurance companies to provide personalized service to their customers.
  • Health bands: In the healthcare sector, many of the patients are provided with health bands that assist them in accessing personalized attention from medical professionals. With IoT enabled health bands provided to patients, healthcare professionals can track the real-time location of the patient together with his vital stats such as pulse rate, blood pressure, body temperature, etc. These bands are also capable of ameliorating the patient’s hospital experience by allowing the patient to control the temperature and lighting of the room, communicate with friends and family via video calling or call for nurse during an emergency with the help of the band.
  • Smart Home fulfilment: In a connected household, wearables can be used to control the smart devices such as turning on the air conditioner before reaching home, switching off the lights even after having left home, etc. The connected devices can be controlled with a simple touch of the wearable or device in the owner’s hand.
  • Smart glasses and gloves: Smart wearables like gloves and glasses are yet to be accepted at large by all industries but it can nevertheless bring forth several benefits. For instance, a baggage handler in an airport with the help of smart gloves does not have to manually count the baggage loaded onto a plane. The crew supervisor can view this data in real-time to validate that every piece of luggage has been counted. In dangerous working environments, users can use smart gloves coupled with virtual reality technology to experience a simulation environment to prepare for any negative ramifications. These smart glasses and gloves are also used for training interns in the medical field to make themselves aware of all of the possibilities that can go wrong in an emergency scenario.
  • Livestock monitoring: Wearables can be a boon in animal husbandry for livestock monitoring. With the help of IoT technology, the animal breeders can monitor the health and real-time location of their livestock in their wearables’ screen and remove the sick animals from the herd on time to prevent the spreading of any infection.

As the market for wearables is increasing, it is a fact that a lot more innovations and novel ways will be employed in the field of wearables. There is surely a future and more serious sustainable applications will emerge over time. We can expect wearables to perform a wider gamut of activities including:

  • Using the captured biometric readings of the user, the wearable can predict early warnings for a possible illness. In the future, the data from the wearables can be accessed by the wearer’s personal doctor who can also analyze the vitals of the person’s health. In the case of early signs for a possible illness, an emergency message can be sent to the doctor to inspect and take preventive measures.
  • Wearables connected over the Internet are beneficial for monitoring the health of an older relative staying in a different location. In the case of any emergency, an alert can notify the wearer so that they can contact an emergency doctor to check on the older relative.
  • The wearable can be used to detect the exact location of inanimate objects which we normally misplace all the time like keys, jacket, socks etc. The same has already been developed for live objects like pets (a chip in the pet collar can be used to locate a truant pet)
  • Wearables can receive messages from the vehicle as and when a body part needs inspection and care. For e.g., in case the wheel air pressure gets lower than a predetermined threshold, the owner will get a notification in his wearable stating the condition.

We at Ness are helping customers to identify monetizable products and features using our unique “Connected” approach to product design. We always strive to cater to the various digital needs of our customers and delight them with our proficient expertise in IoT, Big Data Analytics, Customer Experience, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, and Platform Engineering, to name a few. For example our IoT practice involves intelligent platforms for interacting with machines like Smart Mobility, Smart Living and Smart Machines. We also have a Ness Connected Lab which is dedicated to developing frameworks, accelerators and tools that enable faster development/solution implementation cycles. We have numerous success stories in IoT (Ness customers include a turbine manufacturing company, e-commerce travel site, automotive safety supplier, mapping and location data specific company, next-generation TV provider, Smart Home company etc.). For a privately held consumer technology and wearables product company, Ness implemented and maintained their Fitness Mobile app for better stability and higher user experience.