Wearable tech to blur the line on human

Smart watch. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Smart watch. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - Wearable technology will become inconspicuous as the line between a mobile device and an implant blurs, new research says.

According to Gartner, by as early as 2017, 30% of wearable technology will be near invisible as the technology blends into users as everything from eyewear to jewellery.

"Already, there are some interesting developments at the prototype stage that could pave the way for consumer wearables to blend seamlessly into their surroundings," said Annette Zimmermann, research director at Gartner.

The wearable market has been slow off the ground as consumers have been generally reluctant to buy products with a "geek" label".

Google has conducted testing of its internet-connected Glass for more than a year as the web giant weighs functionality and fashion of the device.

Implant devices

Most manufacturers have jumped to wristwatches as acceptable wearable technology, but despite Samsung, Sony and LG pushing ahead with offerings, the formula hasn't hit the mark yet.

It appears that for wearables to truly gain acceptance, there has to be a user case as well as fashion acceptability for devices will be "on show".

"Smart contact lenses are one type in development. Another interesting wearable that is emerging is smart jewellery. There are around a dozen crowd-funded projects competing right now in this area, with sensors built into jewellery for communication alerts and emergency alarms," said Zimmermann.

Deloitte's Global TMT Predictions says that 2014 will see a surge in wearable technology to 10 million units to generate revenue of $3bn.

Samsung has led the revolution to smart wearables with the Gear range. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Ultimately, wearables will morph into implant type of devices that will gather biometric data for fitness goals or even work in conjunction with healthcare providers to deliver real-time monitoring of patients.

Some smartphones like the Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy S and Note, and the Huawei Mate 7 already feature fingerprint readers that can capture biometric information such as blood pressure, but these technologies could mature into fully functional mobile health labs.

"By 2016, biometric sensors will be featured in 40% of smartphones shipped to end users," Gartner said.

Implant technology is already familiar to the hearing impaired and many cardiac patients lead normal lives with artificial pacemakers.

Personal data

But for the general consumer market, sensors that measure glucose, or voice authentication for financial transactions won't be mainstream yet.

"Fingerprint scanning will be the primary biometric feature introduced by most vendors, given its intuitive and unobtrusive usage. Other biometrics such as facial, iris, voice and palm vein authentication will also emerge but will remain relatively niche," said the company.

As wearables become less obtrusive, Gartner says that the data generated will be hosted on a companion smartphone, but it is not beyond the bounds of reason that small data processing units could be incorporated into smart wearable technology.

Wearable devices will likely link to mobiles like this Sony smart watch and Xperia smartphone. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

These devices could communicate biometric data via the web either to a smartphone user, a home server, healthcare professional or stored in the internet cloud.

As wearables develop, they are likely to completely blur their purpose, and implants themselves may even blur the line between human and android.

"Obtrusive wearables already on the market, like smart glasses, are likely to develop new designs that disguise their technological components completely," said Zimmermann.

This online video shows how implant devices may be charged.

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