Functionable Fashion!
Feb/Mar 2014
Theresa Gordon

Time to get smart and slip into something more connected.

Ah, yes; wearable technology. On-the-go from head-to-toe, these fashionable devices are giving a whole new meaning to the term "dress for success."

Wearable technology, considered the "it gift" by many this past holiday season and the hottest fashion trend of the last year, continues to grow, bringing in its wake many novel new applications. Wherever you turn, you can see examples of companies slipping tags, sensors, and other technologies into their products, creating a nascent wearable tech market ready to explode … and go, go, go!

Wearable technology is simple, easy, practical, mobile, functional, and yes, fun. I can't help but laugh as I review many of these new wearable tech items being unveiled, thinking of how such things were once only portrayed as ideas in movies and cartoons.

It makes me think of the scenes from "Knight Rider," "Get Smart," and "Inspector Gadget." Remember "Inspector Gadget," the fumbling police inspector who was often successful in spite of himself, thanks to his "smart' coat and hat, full of gadgets? I wonder if many of us will emulate this type of behavior as we get accustomed to using these new forms of functionable and fashionable products; those designed specifically to make life easier, and interact with other smart products and the so-called "Internet of Things."

Although they are promoted as products that help us to live better and make more informed decisions, all while looking good in the process; they may take a little getting used to.

For instance, I can see how all these new devices might result in the creation of a new "selfie" or the unintended consequence as a result of using these devices, similar to pocket dialing; all due to the new, learning curve associated with wearables that might include things like cameras and GPS.

However, I truly am inspired and amazed as I research and work with many of these new wearable products. They are creating so many opportunities, featuring many impressive new departures and applications from the norm. Let's take a look at a few.

Looking Good
Want to be safe while riding your bike, but afraid you won't look good? Then ditch the big bulky helmet and try out something like the Hövding hood. Hövding has developed a collar for around your neck that is shaped like a hood and contains an airbag that allows bicyclists to look good while being safe and law abiding.

Sensors embedded in the collar pick up motion and can deploy the airbags in .01 seconds, meaning it can be fully inflated before impact. Lightweight and easy to use, I can see how the value of this can extend to include sporting equipment or even devices designed to help protect those who suffer with certain health issues like seizures.

Many of us are familiar with Google Glass, a touch sensitive, voice operated, wearable Android-powered computer built into glasses that contains a display that allows you to search and see data, take pictures, and run specially-designed apps without obstructing your view. Near the end of last year, Google Glass moved into the healthcare arena and operating rooms, where institutions like the University of California at San Francisco started exploring its use in surgeries. This includes doctors being able to sync medical files with patient activities and provide immediate access to records and patient images.

But Google Glass is not alone in the smart eyewear category. Another device being used in hospital settings comes from Evena called Eyes-On Glasses, which use Epson Moverio BT 100 glasses. The company describes the product as "one of the first healthcare applications of smart glasses commercially available on a global scale."

The Evena system uses vascular imaging technology and allows healthcare professionals to see through their patient's skin to locate veins inserting tubes and IV treatments. The program also allows for digital storage of the information so service providers can document and share the patient's information with others.

The Power of Touch
We all know Microsoft has been part of the NUI (natural user interface) and touch revolution, with such offerings as Kinect, Surface, and Xbox. But now the company is exploring … bras?

Yes, a smart bra. The Microsoft smart bra is part of a research project, titled "Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating." Hmmm … sensors in your bra, which will alert your smartphone in case you become "emotional" and are considering over eating? Let the smart bra put an end to the old adage: grab a quart; call a friend. Let's see how that develops.

There is also the adidas miCoach fitness apparel line and smart bra. adidas lead the way early in smart clothing and wearable tech, teaming up with Samsung a few years back to create the miCoach fitness apparel system, which uses sensors in fabric to connect activities and performance, providing the ability to share such data.

More recently, the company has additionally elevated the use of miCoach in conjunction with MLS (Major League Soccer) where the sensors and data-tracking technology are capturing the athletes' heart rates, speed, field position, and other performance metrics in realtime. Such information has proven valuable for sharing with both coaches and fans.

Smart apparel doesn't just apply to sports apparel or women's lingerie. Recently, Durex came out with Fundawear, which is underwear and bras with vibrating sensors that work with a touch app on smartphones. Funny as it may seem, some reckon this is the wearable-tech answer to sustaining longdistance relationships.

I don't know about that, but I do know there is immeasurable value to connecting science and technology. With that, there are some rather amazing applications that can be developed from using vibrations in wearables, such as premature infant clothing for stimulation and senior clothing addressing vein issues.

Speaking more specifically, you have LUMOback, the belt for correcting posture. LUMOback is a belt with a sensor you wear around your waist which gives you "an immediate, gentle buzz when you slouch," helping you to learn to sit up straight.

LUMOback also lets you track other daily activities, which I'm sure will be connected to more applications as the company grows.

Then there is Shine from Misfit Wearables. With this physical activity monitor button you can set goals, use points, check the time, and check and track your daily activities.

Shine helps you sync information from what you do, with what you are doing, to what you want to do. You can wear the device anywhere, as a clip, wristband, or necklace; all which can be synced with your smartphone via a simple tap.

You can also enjoy portable fashion and connect daily to characters, team members, and others. For example, a company called baubleApps presents NFC necklaces, jewelry, and wearables that connect the wearer to messaging, such as the magical fairyHeart necklace that provides a daily spoken message from the tooth fairy.

Sole Mates
From vibrations to GPS and more, wearables are trekking mobile and keeping us connected. Flexible insoles create specialty footwear. Supershoes, developed by Dhairya Dand of MIT's Media Lab, can alert consumers to deals in nearby shops. The app uses your history and preferences so it can ping you via Bluetooth, alerting you to local specials or to provide current information like restaurant hours, weather conditions, and directions. It can even ping the hyper tactile actuators in the soles to tell you to turn right or left.

GTX Corp., has LOCiMOBILE, the GPS Tracking People-Finding app so you don't have to worry about being lost, getting lost, or losing a loved one. The company now offers SmartSole.

Envisioned for Alzheimer's patients who can get confused and wander off, but additionally for use with children and others, SmartSole allows families and institutions to "geofence" an area for the child or patient or wearer so they can be found if they break the fence and leave the designated area.

This personal location service can then additionally be used to track, monitor, and alert the provider and update the appropriate authorities to realtime locations and emergencies.

At home or in a hospital or institutional setting, numerous ways for applying GPS technology continue to emerge and provide a number of safety and preventative benefits to consumers. Who has the data?

Yes, there are tones of Big Brother lurking with all of these applications and the various ways data is captured, stored, interpreted, and shared. There will always be some positive scenarios and some considered not-so positive aspects to the idea of capturing data. However, the bigger picture that remains now is that these are the capabilities that wearable technology affords. They offer applications, which from head-to-toe can improve our quality of life.

From saving a life, to locating a lost device or loved one, to recharging a relationship; these days it's all about connecting in realtime.

These devices are making such things increasingly easier to achieve. Realtime connectivity is changing the world, creating new ways to work, play, think, and react; all while looking our fashionable best 'dahling.'


Theresa Gordon is a NFC/mobile/social business consultant at Near Field Connects and can be reached at connect@nearfieldconnects.com

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