Wearables 2018

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What are Wearables?

Wearables have a very distinct definition and that definition has changed throughout the ages. A current definition of wearables, as listed by Investopedia is that "Wearable technology is a blanket term for electronics that can be worn on the body, either as an accessory or as part of the material used in clothing." [1]. This would include many popular items seen in 2018. The wearables market is growing as wearables are prevalent in several industries including fashion, entertainment, healthcare, and sports. Now the term wearable technology can be broken into two separate words, "wearable," and "technology." Technology can be defined as " the application of scientific knowledge to the practical aims of human life or, as it is sometimes phrased, to the change and manipulation of the human environment."[2] With this in mind, we can stretch the term wearable technology throughout time. Meaning there have been many instances of wearable technology dating back since 1268 as listed below.


History of Wearables
Nuremberg Egg

Based on the definition, wearables have appeared throughout all of time. Technology can be such a fickle thing and depending on the era, it can sound amazing, or utterly ridiculous. The graphic to the right of this shows some wearables from the early 1970's all the way up until present times. But as we said earlier, wearables have appeared even earlier than 1970. In fact, one of the most earliest sighting of a wearable technology can be traced back to 1268 where the first pair of corrective eyeglasses were born. Technology soon started advancing and by 1510 we started seeing portable time devices appear, like the Nuremberg Egg. Things still were pretty unsophisticated by the time the Abacus ring came out in 1600. The ring simply turned a full fledged abacus into one you can wear on your finger to make calculations. Still in the unsophisticated stages, we say the air conditioned top hat in 1849. The top hat was simply a hat that had ventilations in it, as people would sweat tremendously with the hat on. It wasn't until 1890 that we started seeing spurts of innovation. With the commercialization of the lightbulb business started popping up, like the Electric Girl Lighting Company.The company allowed customers to select which girls they would like to light up their house. It was mainly a service used by the wealthy. The 1900s didn't see much innovation in their wearables until 1961, where the Roulette Shoe was made by Edward Thorpe and Claude Shannon.

After 1961, there was an abundance of new wearable technology, which can be seen to the graphic on the right. These wearables helped spearhead some of the wearables we have today.

How do Wearables work?

How It Works: Internet of Things
Microcontroller Size Comparison

With the wearables market growing, there is a vast number of types of wearables each with their own technology. For example, smart fabric works in a different way than a smartwatch. However, there are some guiding paradigms within computing that have enabled the software that is seen in current wearables: Ubiquitous Computing and the Internet of Things.

Ubiquitous computing dictates that computing should be accessible everywhere and at anytime [1]. Contrasted with desktop computing, which can only be used in a single location, ubiquitous computing can occur on multiple devices, locations, and formats[2]. Ubiquitous computing transforms the computer from a bulky device on a desk to a small device on your wrist or to a screen on your refrigerator.

The Internet of Things (IoT) describes the interconnection of devices that can send and receive data via the Internet [3]. IoT is causing a shift in technological trends and is pushing the use of wearables to expand into other industries.

In terms of the hardware involved, the smartphone is a linchpin for many wearable devices. Essentially, the smartphone is a vital component for the wearable. In many cases, the wearable sends data to an app on the smartphone and the app can also be used to manipulate settings on the wearable.

A common component in wearable devices is the microcontroller. Microcontrollers differ from microprocessors as the latter only contains the Central Processing unit (CPU) whereas the former is an all-in-one device that contains a CPU, RAM (random access memory), ROM (read only memory), and other peripherals (methods to for input and output of information). Microcontrollers are very small in size and can therefore be easily embedded into wearable devices. They are low power-consuming devices making them very appropriate for wearables that often rely on battery and need to function for hours at a time [4].

Which industries can wearables be found in?

In Business and Work environments

In an ideal world, wearables would be readily available to every single employee and help boost productivity, and efficiency of these employees. This, in turn, can help improve the company overall. A company can track an employees location, hours worked, breaks closed and steps taken. They could also incorporate a corporate wellness program to improve the health of their staff. An example would be the Dayton Regional Transit Authority, which supplied Fitbit's to their staff and in turn saw their employees glucose and cholesterol levels decrease, which ended up saving more than $2 million in health care costs.[5]

Upskill and Boeing Use Skylight to Reinvent Wire Harness Assembly

Smartglasses were introduced to the general public by companies like Google, who introduced the Google Glass. Some features include capturing photos and videos, sending text messages or answering phone calls, and even getting directions through internet capabilities. Although the Google Glass has many practical uses, they failed to sell large quantities of the product. Reasons for failure to sell include privacy concerns from the surrounding general public, and the high cost to acquire a pair. [1] Despite these failures, Google and other tech companies like Upskill have developed enterprise smartglasses [2] such as Glass Enterprise Edition and Skylight that give companies the ability to increase productivity by allowing employees to work handsfree using AR. This has had a tremendous impact on increasing output through efficiencies for companies like Boeing. [3]

Enhancing Strength and Endurance

Businesses that are manual labor intensive can benefit from wearables. For example, Ford is using exoskeletons to allow their manufacturing workers to get less fatigued in situations that are taxing on the body. Exoskeletons provide muscle support, so they are able to reduce the effects of overexertion which would cause life debilitating injuries. Overexertion is the leading cause of workplace injuries and is responsible or nearly $14 billion in annual compensation for businesses.[4]

Speech and Hearing Voice

The ability to use your voice to control the information you receive can significantly impact the workplace. Lufthansa has a voice based headphone that enables reduced the need for two technicians into one technician.[5] Previously one technician would read out the instructions to the other, who was doing the task at hand and report them to his partner, who would write them down. With the technology they have employed, the instructions are sent to the technicians headphones and then says the status of the job, which then gets converted into data and stored.

Augmented Vision

AR Business Card

Being able to have an overlay of information while conducting a task is highly helpful. While this example is still just a dream, think about how convenient it would be if you went to a networking event and you got handed a business card by a studious student. You go home and put your wearable on and focus it onto the business card. The card then expands giving you detailed information about the owner of the card, like their job history, education, what they are looking for etc,.

While that may not be a reality, the people at GE Aviation have done something similar to help our their tasks. GE uses Google Glass to check up specifications they needed, which was overlayed via the Google Glass.[1] These workers did not need to stop their work to continuously checking their manuals, and thus they were able to improve efficency by 8-12% while reducing errors, which saves costs.[2]


The pairing of wearable technology alongside sports make for a perfect match. Wearable devices hold the key to the future, as individuals are looking to further their knowledge and gain insight in an emerging technology embedded sports environment.

Athletes and coaches are experiencing a new interactive element when it comes to sports, with the wearable’s allowing for tracking and measuring capabilities and through the use of analytics.

Enhancing Teams

Wearable’s allow for sports teams to introduce a strategic element through the usage of analytics composed of player feedback. Teams use the analytics to improve their decision making amongst their players and as well as monitoring the performance of players. Having this available real time data, eliminates the need of using instincts for coach’s decision making and provides further insights to measurable outcomes that weren’t available before. For example, the Adidas Micoach elite team system, implemented by soccer teams uses physiological data from players, which is sent to the coaching staff on the sideline via a tablet. A small data pod is placed in the players “smart” jerseys, "which is composed of a series of electrodes and sensors woven into the fabric of the base layer, the cell wirelessly transmits more than 200 data records per second from each player to a central computer and then is displayed in a series of simplified insights and results on the coach's iPad". [3] From this, such performance metrics measured include:

  • Heart rate
  • Speed
  • Acceleration
  • Distance
  • Field Postion
  • Power

Through the use of this system, teams are able to monitor the usage of players performance and maintain peak physical performance.


Adidas Micoach

Wearable tracking devices are also heavily used for training purposes for individuals and athletes. What gets tracked depends on the activity being conducted or the sport. For example, when running the individuals time and endurance will be measured during running a certain distance. Through the use of wearable’s in training, it can remove the need of basic cones and drills, stopwatches and manually reporting such measures like verticality when jumping. For basketball, a wearable technology called Shot tracker is readily used by basketball professional. Sensors are placed amongst the wrist of the individual and the net of the basketball hoop. The sensors then work together to track shot attempts, makes and misses. GPS sensors can also be used to track where the individual is shooting from in the court. This allows the individual to be able to improve on the areas where they are not shooting well from. [1]

Injury Prevention


The onset of injuries can also be prevented or be monitored through the use of wearable technologies. In the market, there are a variety of wearable’s that can be used, which gather information on the athlete’s physical performance and can be turned into analytic data, which can identify issues that can lead to injury. Currently, a device called Humon is capable of measuring oxygen levels and muscles to see the onset of lactic acid. [1] This device worn on the thigh of an individual is capable of providing real time training insights, such as pace adjustment and guiding individuals through a warm up. Along with the app, the individual is then able to see where they got a cramp or where they can become over exhausted while doing an activity such as running. In addition, a device utilized by professional leagues such as the NBA, called Catapult can protect athletes by monitoring player fatigue and physical load. [2]

Health Care

Wearables can have a major impact in personal healthcare both in and out of the hospital. There are devices that everyday people can use just to track some information for the personal improvement, while hospitals and doctors can increase the effectiveness of data collecting and monitoring by giving a patient a wearable, and tracking their vital information remotely, instead of the patient being tied to a bed and hooked up to wires and dongles. In 2014 the HRI/CIS Wearables Consumer survey asked American consumers what they wanted from wearables.

With the interest so high in the ability to track information and exercise smarter, it is no surprise to why we have seen devices like the Apple Watch, Fitbit, Garmin and the Huawei bands, take off as much as they have since the survey was done.[3] We will be looking at the consumer aspect of heath care and wearables, not the industry level wearables that hospitals use.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch Series 0

The Apple Watch (dubbed the Series 0) was first introduced in 2014 at Apples annual September event, and subsequently released in April, 2015. Throughout the years, Apple has released the Series 1, Series 2 and their latest watch, the Series 3 concurrently with WatchOS 2, 3 and 4. Each version of the watch and its software improved the functionality of the device.

While the Apple Watch is more of a general purpose watch, it does have its own dedicated fitness applications and third party applications that allow the user to track the activity which provides feedback for the user.

Heart Monitor

The heart rate monitor on the Apple Watch has improved tremendously since its inception. In the original incarnation of the Watch and WatchOS, the heart rate monitor would only record your pulse every 10 minutes, and it would only record it if your arm was not moving. [4] Today, the Apple Watch Series 3 and WatchOS 4 provide much more data for the user. Heart rate data is captured more frequently, usually between two to five minutes. When an individual is working out, Apple states the watch continuously measures your heart rate during the workout, and three minutes after you complete your workout.[5]

When you go to a hospital and the nurses check your heart rate, they do so with an Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). An EKG measures the electrical activity that is generated by your heart. For the EKG to work, the nurses attach the electric nodes onto your chest or four extremities (left arm and leg, and right arm and leg). In the United States, an EKG costs an average of $1,500 for uninsured patients. [6] While Canada does have a more generous healthcare program, it also has a minuscule population in relation to the United States where 11.3 percent of the population does not have health insurance, which is 36.8 million people. To put things into perspective, Canada has a population of 36.7 million people as of 2016.[7]

In contrast, the Apple Watch uses a different method to determine your heart rate. The technology that Apple uses is known as Photoplethysmography. The technology works as follows: Blood reflects red light which is why blood is red. Blood also absorbs green lights. Apples LED lights are green and they have light sensitive photodiodes that detect how much blood is flowing through your veins. As more blood pumps through your veins, the more green light is absorbed. So, when you are at rest, there is less blood flowing through your wrist, which means less green light is absorbed. The Apple Watch flashes its LED lights a 100 times per second and is able to calculate the how often your heart beats each minute, which is your heart rate. Furthermore, the sensors at the back of the watch also use infrared light, which is used when the Apple Watch measures your heart rate in the background. The photoplesthysmorgraphy is used to measure your heart rate during exercise, breathe sessions, Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and average walking rate per day.

As of August 1st, 2018, the Apple Watch Series 1 costs $249 USD which gives you the heart rate sensor and the other features that the watch has when connected to your iPhone and on its own. When we look at the broader aspect of 38 million Americans not having health insurance, because a simple EKG can cost them, on average, a $1,500 a device like the Apple Watch (and the other fitness bands like Fitbit and Garmin) seem to a great way to monitor your own vitals at home, even when it is not needed for now, as the data can be more valuable in the future. The biggest question is accuracy. How accurate can these devices be compared to the industrial devices that Hospitals purchase and use for their patients? A study done by Stanford University shows that the devices, Apple Watch, Fitbit Surge, Samsung Gear S2, Basis Peak, Microsoft Band, MIO Alpha 2 and PulseOn showed heart rate measurements within a 5% error range. The Apple Watch had a median error rate of 2.5%. [8]

Activity Rings

Close Your Rings

Gamification takes the typical aspects of a game, like scoring points, and competition, and applies it to other activities.[1] In our case, Apple has applied gamification to their Activity rings.

There are three distinct activity rings:

  • Move: The Apple Watch is capable of tracking your active calories. Active calories are calories that are burned through movement. This can be any sort of movement such as walking to the kitchen, doing jumping jacks, or even coming to SFU to attend Mike Church's BUS 466 class. The move ring is designed to display how many active calories you have burned as a percentage based on the daily goal set for active calories. Reaching your daily goal will close the move ring. Being active throughout the day is much better for your health than sitting down all day, and the Move activity ring encourages you to get up and be active by completing your goal. Almost anything counts towards your move goal, although lighter activities have less of an impact than playing a game of basketball. The Apple Watch dynamically recommends a new Move goal each week based on your activity for that week.
  • Exercise: The Exercise ring is fixed on the daily recommendation of 30 minutes of activity per day. For an activity to count towards completing your exercise ring, it has to a level above a brisk walk. This can mean you don't have to do a traditional workout to close your Exercise ring. Everyday activities, like speed walking from West Mall Center to the Academic Quadrangle will also be sufficient and add to your time exercised. Apple has stated that 30 minutes of activity can help reduce the chances of stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and weight gain. It can also help improve sleep and mood and reduce stress,[2] which are all important aspects of health. The Exercise app also comes loaded with dedicated workouts, like running, swimming and high intensity interval training. Running burns a different amount of calories than swimming does, so picking the correct activity also helps complete your Move ring. While exercising, the app provides you live feedback such as calories burned, distance, heart rate and time.
  • Stand: The final ring is known as the Stand ring. You complete this ring by standing up and moving around for at least one minute during 12 different hours during the day. As mentioned earlier, continuously sitting down for a prolonged period of time can be detrimental to your health. Standing up more and being less sedentary can lead to lower blood pressure, increased energy and a lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.[3] The Apple Watch sends you a notification when it has detected that you have been sitting down for most of the hour and have not gotten a minute of activity in.

Beyond the three rings, the Activity app gives you personalized suggestions on how to close your rings and gives encouragement along the way. Each ring has their own monthly challenges that are tailored to you.


The Fitbit has many different types of watches that range from general purpose like the Apple Watch, to more dedicated activity based devices. It does have similar functionalists as the Apple Watch, such as heart rate tracking and dedicated exercise tracking. Because of the similarities in the heart rate and exercise we won't go too deep into those categories as it would be redundant, but we will touch on the differences.

The Fitbit's heart monitor, known as PurePulse also uses the same technology as the Apple Watch, except the Fitbit is able to monitor your heart rate continuously, 24/7. The Fitbit records your heart rate data at a one second interval while you are working out, and at a five second interval in the background. This beats the Apple Watch in terms of frequency of samples. PurePulse also has some stock features that come with it that the Apple Watch does not have out of the box.

While exercising, the Fitbit is capable of giving you feedback on what heart rate zones you are working out in. The zones are:

  • Fat Burn: A moderate level of intensity that increases basic endurance where the body uses fat for fuel. It is a common zone during Yoga, pilates and walking.[4]
  • Cardio: The cardio zone is a medium level of intensity that helps increase cardio fitness and muscle strength. You usually hit this zone during running, dancing and on an elliptical.[5]
  • Peak: The peak zone is the maximum level of intensity that one exercises with Usually activities in this zone are meant to be short and intensive bursts to help improve performance. You would usually see this in High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), endurance training or even a game like Basketball.

The Fitbit also uses PurePulse to help individuals manage stress. They have what is known as guided breathing sessions. PurePulse uses your heart rate to create 2-minute or 5-minute guided breathing session. The tracker uses your heart rate to track your rate of breathing and adjusts the session so it is customized to the user. Once the session begins, the user just follows the on-screen instructions on when to inhale and exhale to calm their state of mind. Extensive research has shown that guided breathing can help reduce stress,[6] anxiety,[7] and even lower blood pressure. A device that is capable of helping an individual calm down during a moment of panic or anxiety is huge.

Sleep Tracking

Sleep tracking can be a very beneficial for everyone, especially university students who always seem to not be getting enough sleep. There are a number of different consequences for a lack of sleep. One of the more obvious ones is feeling tired the next day. Now if you wanted to track your sleep almost 11 years ago, it would be difficult. The only way you could do it in 2007 was by visiting the clinic for an overnight test or having a bulky equipment attached to you at home. It was expensive, time consuming and uncomfortable to track your sleep almost a decade ago. Today it is much easier, thanks to Fitbit. You just have to wear their tiny device on your wrist while you sleep, and the Fitbit will do the rest for you. In the morning, you will see how well you slept and get recommendations on how to sleep better.

Fitbit introduced Sleep stages to their device which tells the user what stages of sleep they were in throughout the night. It makes it easier to understand sleep quality and if you spent enough time in each stage. The stages are:[8]

  • Awake You actually do wake up during your sleep and it is normally. This occurs bout 10-30 times per night.
  • Light Sleep: This uusllay makes up more that half of your time sleep and it is where your memory and learning stabilize.
  • Deep Sleep: This part of the sleep cycle is where your immune system recovers as well as physical recovery from working out.
  • REM: The REM stage of sleep happens when an individual is coming out of deep sleep. This is where you get mentally refreshed.

Some effects of sleep deprivation on your body are:[9]

  • Memory Issues: Lack of sleep interups the connections that help you process and remember new information. Both short-term and long-term memory get effected.
  • Trouble thinking and concentrating: Your ability to problem solve, be creative and concentrating on tasks gets reduced with lack of sleep.
  • Weekend Immunity: Having a lack of sleep can weaken an individuals immune system. A weakened system means a higher chance of getting viruses like the common cold and flu.
  • Accidents: Because lack of sleep can make an individual drowsy, the signals they receive from their body to react to certain situations get slowed down. You are more likely to get into car accidents and other injuries because of a lack of sleep.
  • High blood pressure: Lack of sleep can hurt your processes that keep the heart and blood vessels in working condition. This also includes your blood sugar and blood pressure.
  • Risk for diabetes:Sleep deprivation also increases the level of insulin in your body which controls your blood sugar levels. Higher levels of insulin in an individuals body increase fat storage and the risk for type 2 diabetes.
  • Weight gain: Lack of sleep effects two hormones, leptin and ghrelin. Both of these play an important role in your digestive process. Leptin tells the brain when you are full, and without enough sleep, leptin decreases and increases ghrelin, which tells your brain that you are hungry.
  • Low sex drive: Your libedo can drop if you do not get enough sleep. Lower testosterone levels can also be effected, which can also decrease your sex drive.
  • Risk of heart disease: As mentioned earlier, increased blood pressure is one symptom of sleep deprivation. It also increases the chemicals linked to inflammation.

Virtual Reality and Mental Health

While VR is traditionally seen in gaming and entertainment industries, it is also being applied to mental health issues. VR is being used to treat acrophobia - the fear of heights. A phobia trial at Oxford University found that 70% of patients who received VR treatment (virtual fear-inducing activities such as taking escalators or visiting a rooftop restaurant) were able to overcome their fear entirely. Similar treatment procedures are being created for other phobias [10].

Similarly, VR treatments are healing soldiers with PTSD. Soldiers are immersed in virtual recreations of environments they suffered traumatic events in. The patient goes through the traumatic event again and again until they are no longer triggered by it [11].


Cardiogram is not a wearable, but it is a third party application that can be used in conjunction with wearables like the Apple Watch and Garmin, Samsung Gear etc,. Third party apps, like Cardiogram give more power and flesh out the abilities of wearables that monitor your health so it is worth a mention and explanation.

These wearable devices have the potential to detect conditions such as hypertension, atrial fibrillation and diabetes. Recently, Cardiogram published their findings on their clinical trial that tested how accurately their application, via a wearable, could detect atrial fibrillation. They taught DeepHeart, their deep learning architecture, to sift through 139 million heart measurements from 9,750 users. The result: DeepHeart was able to accurately predict atrial fibrillation at a higher rate than FDA EGC devices.[12] Atril fibrillation effects between 2.7-6.1 million people in America, and this is expected to increase.[13] The benefits are clearly apparent with wearables, and it is hard to argue against life saving technology, like Cardiogram.


Components of a VR Headset
Samsung Gear VR Headset
Google Cardboard

High-End Virtual Reality Headset Market

Wearable technology is increasingly popular within entertainment, particularly within gaming. A prominent application of wearable technology is the virtual reality headset. The three main players in the high-end market are the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR [14]. The basic components are the actual headset itself, two touch controllers that allow the player's real hands to become VR hands, and the sensors that track movement within a small space and offer 360 degree tracking coverage in the play area[15]. These products offer a high-quality gaming experience and therefore are priced upwards of $500 [16]. There are also hidden costs associated with these products. For example, the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive require gaming PCs while PS VR will require a play station. An option positioned even higher in the market is the PrioVR which is a full body gaming suit with 12 sensors priced at approximately $1200 [17].

Mid-End Virtual Reality Headset Market

In the more affordable section of the market, there are mobile VR devices like Samsung Gear VR or the Google Daydream View that require only a smartphone in order to use. Samsung Gear VR is a collaboration between Samsung and Oculus and is only compatible with certain Samsung Galaxy smartphones whereas Google Daydream View is compatible with a range of smartphones. These devices are priced at around $200 [18].

Low-End Virtual Reality Headset Market

In the low-end market, there are options like Google Cardboard priced very modestly at $25 [19]. It is compatible with an extensive range of smartphones. Although it is significantly simpler than other market offerings, it was immensely successful: Google shipped over 10 million cardboard viewers from its launch in 2014 to 2017 and over 160 million cardboard apps had been made in that time frame [20]. The success of this product is what inspired Google to create Daydream View.

Cinema Through VR
Halcyon: A VR Series

Cinema through Virtual Reality

While VR is traditionally for gaming, it is also transforming they way media is consumed for the purposes of entertainment. For example, Oculus Cinema allows Rift users to watch movies in a cinema-like environment. Further, there is a multiple user mode so users can essentially go watch a movie with their friends, who will be seen as avatars, without physically meeting them. Not only can users watch conventional movies in a VR environment, an entirely new medium has been created called VR movies which can only be viewed through a VR platform [21].

Virtual Reality in Television

Similar to VR Movies, VR Television series are also being created. For example, the TV series 'Halcyon' is being billed as a ‘virtual reality series’ because the series prepares content specifically to be viewed through VR headsets. The genre of the TV show is crime/murder mystery and the VR content is interactive and has clues for viewers. Not only is the medium being affected but the content also has a VR theme. The show is set in 2058 at a VR company where a detective solves VR crimes with the help of digital people[22].

Virtual Reality in Social Media

Facebook, parent company of Oculus, has built its VR app called 'Spaces' which is in beta testing where users can make live videos, hang out with friends, and take virtual selfies to upload onto their main Facebook newsfeed [23]. Microsoft also has its own social platform, AltspaceVR, which has several games for users to play with their friends such as chess or cards. AltspaceVR is also providing a more seamless experience by unveiling new improvements within the virtual platform itself. There is a monthly Town Hall meeting within AltspaceVR where new features or updates to existing features are revealed.[24].

Phillip Rosedale,former CEO and co-founder of SecondLife, has created another company called High Fidelity which is being considered as the successor to SecondLife. They have recently raised $35 million in funding in order to realize their vision of the ‘metaverse’ which is the universe of virtual reality worlds. High Fidelity is trying to move past simple multiplayer games and are implementing VR spaces such as nightclubs that feature live performances from DJs and an audience from around the world [25].

Virtual Reality in Casinos

VR Casinos are an emerging trend. They offer extremely detailed and realistic game rooms, ability to interact with both the dealer and other users, in-game chats, and additional features such as a bar. A key player in the VR Casino market is Slotsmillion which features only slot machines that can be played using real money, given that it is legal to do so in the user's country [26]. Players can also access a bar and enjoy the view of a futuristic city as the casino is located on the 80th floor of a high-rise building. Analyst firms are predicting that between 2018-2022, the VR gambling market will register a compound annual growth rate of close to 55 percent[27].


In terms of fashion, exciting new wearable technology exists and is currently being developed. These products have very practical uses for everyday life, and look good while doing so.


Smartglasses are starting to look more fashionable for everyday users. As described above, the Google Glass was not a successful product for individual consumption. Aside from privacy issues and the high price, another reason for failure to sell was that they were obtrusive and looked ugly on the user’s face. Although they carried a range of functions, users were not ready for the futuristic-looking devices.

Vue Smart Glasses
To take advantage of the fashion market within the wearables sector, a company called Vue has designed a variety of smart glasses that look like a regular pair of glasses. Functions allow you to play music, answer messages, navigate and receive notifications. Users can simply touch the frame of their glasses in order to control them. [28] These glasses are unobtrusive, fashionable, as well as functional, and can be used for everyday purposes in order to enhance the lives of individuals.[29]

Another issue is that some users do not like the look of glasses altogether. For these users, they may have to wait until some time in the future to purchase wearable contact lenses. Although it is difficult to predict exactly when these will be introduced into the market, developers are currently racing to introduce them.[30] Some are already being developed, and will be able to attain energy through natural light as well as from the user’s blinking. Verily, an Alphabet (Google) independent subsidiary, is one of these companies. Their process for inserting the lens into the eye involves surgically implanting the technology, and would improve vision drastically. They are also working on a contact lens wearable that would help users with diabetes to track their blood and glucose levels. Meanwhile, the University of Michigan is receiving assistance in funding from the U.S. military to develop a wearable contact lens that would allow military personnel to see in the dark. With products such as the Vue smart glasses and contact lenses being developed, the future of wearable lenses will allow users many options whether they like the look of glasses or not.


Meanwhile, the world of fashion is beginning to witness many new inventions that can be worn on the body. Google and Levi's have teamed up to introduce the Jacquard Denim Biker Jacket. The jacket takes the classic look of a stylish jean jacket and combines smart technology. The partnership allows both companies to focus on each of their core competencies, and the main function is to allow the biker’s to navigate hands free. The jacket comes with a technology tag embedded into the jacket, and the user is able to control it via the sleeve. Instead of relying on a smartphone that can be distracting and may lead to accidents, the user can tap or slide their hand on the sleeve in order to get directions, play music, or even receive messages from friends. This can be a very practical use of the technology not only for bikers, but for people walking through an unknown city or driving in their car. Priced at $350, this jacket is already available and marks Google’s entry into fashionable wearable technology.

Google X Levi's Jacquard Denim Biker Jacket

Ralph Lauren also broke into the world of wearable technology through a self-heating jacket that was worn by the U.S. 2018 Winter Olympic Team in South Korea. The jacket contains a battery and provides heat that insulates throughout the interior.[31]

Another big factor that will change the game of wearable technology is smart clothing. This technology has sensors embedded into the fabric, and can allow users to perform a range of functions depending on the activities they choose to engage in. For example, a golfer can track their swings while a belt can be used to track a user's weight. [32]Overall, smart clothing will allow users to have more access to highly-customizable outfits. Meanwhile, Loomia, an internet-technology company, has been able to create an e-textile that can be washed in a washing machine. [33] This is the first time this has been seen, and marks the beginning of technology embedded into the fabric that is washable in water.


Fossil Smart Watch

Wearable technology that is worn on the wrist typically involves two major products mentioned above, Fitbit and the Apple Watch. Despite their multi-functionality, it is argued by many that these products are not fashion-forward. The issue with smart watches is that they are not able to follow Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law states that transistor density will double every couple of years, leading to improved performance and efficiency.[34] Due to this, companies are finding it difficult to produce smartwatches with multiple functionalities and therefore a variety of sensors, all while maintaining a sleek and discrete look that satisfies the consumer's fashion needs. Not only this, but another issue is that these mass-consumed products may be taking away people’s individuality.

Combating this issue, many watch and jewelry companies are introducing a wide-range of wearable technology that appeals to those that want to retain a sense of uniqueness. For example, Fossil and Kate Spade have released smartwatches for men and women that give the user the ability to see notifications, access Google through voice controls, send messages, and connect to Bluetooth or WiFi.[35] Meanwhile, Tory Burch has teamed up with Fitbit to release a smart bracelet that carries a signature Birch design, and allows the same functions of a typical Fitbit.[36]

One common theme about fashionable wearable technology, and even wearable technology in general is that it is currently too expensive for many people. As the cost to produce this technology decreases over the years, it is certain that wearable technology will continue to impress and be adopted by everyday users looking to strengthen their fashion sense.

Associated Risks and Future Implications

Baby Monitor
  • New Demographics: Wearables are expanding into new demographics such as kids and babies. Qualcomm recently launched a new smartwatch chip specifically designed for kids called the Snapdragon Wear 2500 [37]. There are also baby monitors that can be attached to a baby's foot and will monitor the baby's heart rate, breathing rate and other vitals. It will send a warning to an app if the rates fall outside of normal ages. While there are benefits to having wearables on kids and babies, it may increase society's dependence on technology further.
Sousveillance illustrated by Steve Mann's daughter
  • Enormous amounts of aggregate data on the cloud: Due to the increasing number of devices partaking in the Internet of Things, there is an enormous amount of data available on the cloud which puts it at risk for data breaches and hacking. As the wearable industry advances, stricter security measures need to be put in place[38].
  • Theft through wearables: Many wearables include access to personal functions such as e-mails, online bank accounts, key contacts and addresses. It is possible that by merely stealing someone's wearable, the thief can also gain access to these personal functions[39].
  • Monitor vs. Control: Currently, wearables in the healthcare industry monitor your heart rate, breathing rate and other vitals. However, as technology advances, it is possible that wearables could even begin to control certain metrics. It is also possible that countries with more controlling governments can use these wearables to control their citizens, effectively transforming the smartwatch to a smart-handcuff.
  • Sousveillance: This term, coined by Steve Mann, refers to the use of wearables to record video perhaps even without the person's permission[40]. Sousveillance also carries positive implications. Certain police precincts in California experimented with the use of wearable cameras. This resulted in a reduction of abuse of power and violence by police as well as complaints received from civilians regarding police behavior [41].
  • Wearable weapon technology: Currently, wearables are gadgets that provide the user with value through functionality. However, it is possible that weapon technology can also be introduced which perhaps indicates that the creation of wearable technology needs to be monitored.


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  41. https://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/07/business/wearable-video-cameras-for-police-officers.html


Bhavik Darji Manmit Bal Shradna Sharma Taylor Brear
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business/Faculty of Applied Sciences
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
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