Chances are you know somebody who has a Fitbit. Maybe even an Apple Watch. But except for die-hard athletes and people with certain medical conditions, wearable technology hasn’t gone mainstream…yet. According to a new report, the wearable tech market will skyrocket to $70 billion by 2025. However, to accomplish that feat, wearable technology is going to have to do a lot more than measure steps and heart rate. The good news is, it’s already in the works, and here’s what’s going to lay the foundation for that astronomical market growth:
New and better sensors
There are many different kinds of sensors that can be embedded in wearables, and they’re blowing right past the benchmarks of heart rate, steps, and respiration. The newest sensors use electromyography to measure muscle activity, providing feedback on which muscles are firing at what intensity and in what order. That allows serious athletes to monitor their form and to adjust it mid-workout. Stretch and pressure sensors can provide feedback on body position, helping coaches and athletes optimize form, improve skill level, and even predict the risk of injury. When it comes to medical applications, stretch and pressure sensors hold a lot of potential for touch-sensitive prosthetics . And chemical sensors can provide an overall health profile by measuring substances found in sweat and other bodily fluids.
For wearables to become part of daily life, they’ll need to be user-friendly. First, they’ll have to be undetectable – nobody is going to wear a sensor that’s as irritating as a rock in their shoe. Second, they have to operate independently, without human assistance, as opposed to a fitness bracelet that you have to put into “exercise” mode before working out. They’ll have to be incorporated into the clothing people have already come to love, like compression gear and moisture-wicking clothing. They’ll have to be durable, able to withstand not only falls and impacts, but also repeated washing and drying. And, ideally, they’ll have to be self-powered – nobody is going to want to have to plug their running shirt into a charger.
Thanks to Moore’s law , developing technology that’s small enough to wear comfortably without sacrificing processing speed shouldn’t be a problem by 2025. But the fact that we know it’s doable doesn’t mean we don’t have to give it some thought. The future of wearable technology depends on continuing to push that envelope.
The social revolution has changed the way we think about connection and friendship. For wearables to become widely accepted, they’ll have to embrace the social side of things as well as just the physical. Developers are already working on a “hug simulation” jacket, for instance. Originally designed for children with autism – to provide the benefits of human touch without the discomfort it involves – the jackets can also be used to bridge physical separation, as in a goodnight hug from a traveling parent. Wearables can also deliver a tap or vibration when people you know show up at your location – a haptic version of “checking in” on your favorite app.
If you’re currently wearing an ornery smartwatch or a quirky fitness band, it might be hard to imagine that everybody will be using wearables by 2025. But the technology is already there – we just have to figure out how to better weave it into the fabric of daily life. 2025 will be here soon.