Wearables: Get ready to ride the next tech wave

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They are discussed, rumored, and advertised ad nauseum, and headlined with plenty of question marks and exclamation points. In fact, we are often told to expect their dominance, an endless list of gadgets that will fasten, strap, and stick to our bodies to monitor, sense, and signal just about everything you can imagine.

Of course, we’re talking about wearables, kind of like edibles in how they can alter the way you interpret the world, but designed instead for your wrist, face, pocket, and belt. And best of all, they are perfectly legal in all fifty states! At least for now.

Wearable tech is the newest and most promising technological innovation on the horizon that is set to take off this year. Already, they are much talked about and are being developed and manufactured by some of the biggest names in the game. Think Google Glass, Fitbit, Samsung Gear, Jawbone UP, and Nike Fuel Band. Ranging from an always connected new vision for your eyes to what amounts to a fancy watch that can tell you how many calories you burned during that 6 hour Netflix binge.

Already the wearables market has diversified into several viable categories with manufacturers developing devices to suit almost any niche interest. First, there are the Optical Head Mounted Displays (OHMD) like Google Glass. And make no mistake, these eye glasses are intended to accomplish much more than just enhance your vision.

They are also the first wearable tech to grab the public’s attention, making headlines back in early 2013 when rumors and pics of Google Glass first took center stage. These glasses were straight out of a sci-fi flick from the 1950s, promising the ability to record life as you see it with a built in video and picture camera that can immediately search for topics of your interest, offer navigation, and provide access to your favorite social media profiles. It also raised a lot of concerns about privacy and the ability to record our fellow citizens or research them in real time without their knowledge. Whatever your feelings are about this wearable tech, it is truly revolutionary and are here to stay.

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Next up are the smartwatches. If Star Trek didn’t create a frenzy for these half a century ago, we don’t know what will. While limited versions of smartwatches have been around for years, even the latest generation of smartwatches remain in their developmental infancy. Part of the problem has do with the fact that developers (and consumers) are still trying to figure out what kind of features they should offer. For now, smartwatches are hoping to mimic all the features provided by smartphones. Make calls? Check. Instagram that lunch you spent too much on? Check. Text your mom to ask if she can do your…I mean, your girlfriend to meet you for coffee? Check!

There are a lot of companies experimenting with these watches with Samsung at the head of the pack (anticipate my upcoming article for the low down on Samsung’s full line of Galaxy smart watches including the Gear 2, Gear Neo, and Gear Fit). And with every large tech firm in the development process for smartwatches, these wearables will in time be perfected and are certain to be on the cusp of being the “next big thing”. Although smartwatches have yet to generate mass appeal, just wait until this coming December when 2nd and 3rd generation smartwatches will be on top of everyone’s holiday shopping list.

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Last but not least are the fitness trackers, the boon of the tech market. Fitness trackers have been around for decades in the basic form of pedometers.  But now that we live in the Golden Age of technological innovation (although these days just about every new year brings us the new Golden Age of technological development), fitness trackers are making leaps and bounds in the way they monitor how active or inactive we are in our daily lives. Fitness trackers are commonly worn around the wrist, such as the Fitbit Force and Flex, Nike FuelBand, Jawbone UP24, Polar Loop, Withings Pulse…well you get the idea, they are A LOT of these suckers on the market.

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These handy dandy little bracelets can track your activity levels by using accelerometers, gyroscopes and in some of the higher level models GPS to determine what it is you’re doing by sending this information to algorithm-based software. This software can tell you approximately how many calories you’ve burned, when you were most active and even how you stack up against those other IronMan competitors, or perhaps in most cases to your fellow weekend gym warriors. Most common activities are easy to track such as walking and running, but where the better devices make their impression felt is in the tracking and accuracy of other complex activities or times in your day-to-day life.

Tracking sleep is becoming a determining factor in the effectiveness of a fitness tracker as the ability to accurately monitoring your sleeping patterns is becoming increasingly important to assessing a person’s overall health. As software progresses to interpret the more intuitively designed wearables, a fitness tracker could be your next life-enhancing tech purchase. Whether you want to know just how many steps you took after lunch until dinner, or if you’re interested in getting a handle as to why you feel groggy after getting what you thought is a good night’s rest, fitness tracking wearables will be the most appealing consumer purchase.

If any of these great advancements in tech interests you, be sure to check out my forthcoming articles on wearable tech with in depth analysis of all the latest devices to hit the market.

About Author

Having worked in retail tech sales for the better part of a decade, Steve has been on the front lines of consumer electronics and seeing their impact on modern culture. From his humble beginnings at Circuit City, Stephen has gone on to help introduce the Nook eReader and tablet to the world, and to manage a store at RadioShack. Currently, he is working for AT&T Mobility. One of Steve’s goals is to bridge the gap that can exist between what a “techie” thinks is important in a device or service and what is important and practical for the average consumer.

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