Always connected: wearable technology

“Wearable technologies” were at the top of many wish lists this past holiday season. The term is used for technical devices that can be comfortably worn on the body due to increasingly minute microchips and are serving to blur the boundary between the human body and technology. IMS Research forecasts the sale of approximately 170 million of these wearable devices in 2016 and ABI Research even forecasts 485 million worldwide.

News of new developments are being heard from around the world. In India alone, numerous start-ups are setting out to capture the global market. The innovations include shoes that communicate with the wearer, fitness wristbands that are directly connected with personal trainers, or rings that can answer phone calls and control music playlists and other devices. These developments are getting particularly exciting due to so-called Affective Computing. The devices can use this to respond even more precisely and even recognize mood swings by way of gesture control, brainwave measurements and voice recognition.

In Germany, the experts from the IZM Fraunhofer Institute in Berlin-Wedding have achieved success following many years of research in the fusion of textiles and technology. They have developed a very flexible material equipped with LEDs that is still washable. The base is a foil made of polyurethane that can be applied to any substances and can take any shape.

These developments were previously made primarily in the areas of fitness and medicine, in which armbands for joggers for example are now widely available. The market already includes several smart watches, head-up displays for everyone, intelligent trouser seams, sensor socks or products like Google Glass.

2015 is the year of truth, in which wearables like smart watches, Google Glass, etc. will have to prove whether they can become part of our everyday lives or only be successful in niche markets. In this case as well, wearables and ambient technologies with user specific information offerings such as smart ad space or virtual reality applications have to be inspected with regard to their usability for large-scale events and trade fairs. The infrastructural prerequisites consisting of apps, LANs, control systems, etc. already exist at trade fairs.

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