Wearable Tech: The Present & Future
If you’re in any doubt about the impact of wearable tech in today’s market, just look at the sales figures. Market research firm IDC estimates that 72 million wearable devices were sold in 2015, up from 24 million in 2014. That’s a 300% year-on-year increase in units sold. The numbers on their own are incredible.
What’s astounding? The wide range of applications for wearable devices
It’s not just individual consumers using smart watches and fitness trackers.
The iPhone for example, is facilitating one of the largest medical studies ever conducted. Via the MyHeart Counts app, cardiologists at Stanford University are collecting data from across the US and investigating the links between physical activity and heart disease.
And that’s just 1 of 4 recently launched medical apps that are using wearable technologies to help cure or manage major diseases.
Sensors are being used to enhance lives and enterprises
All the market’s major players are now investigating the transformative power of wearable technology, in particular sensors. And we’re talking ‘major players’ from across, from consumer electronics manufacturers and retailers to entertainment companies, insurers and transportation systems designers.
Wearable sensors collect large volumes of data, and all these sectors (and more) can harness that data. The technology is developing at a significant rate, and is being utilised already in areas that we would not have thought possible 5 years ago. For example:
- Sensors attached to uniforms to monitor the stress levels of military personnel in battle
- Contact lenses with conductive circuitry that measures the glucose levels in tears, in order to assist people with diabetes
- Fitness sensors fastened to clothing/harnesses and embedded skin to measure the physical condition of sportspeople ‘in game’
- Sensors integrated into headsets/gloves to provide data to augmented and virtual reality systems
The list of applications goes on, and based on the spectrum of opportunities it will continue to expand for many years to come.
We’ve been working with many different companies to make ideas possible (and in many cases theses are ideas that would have seemed impossible just a couple of years ago). We’ve been innovating in the flexible electronics arena for over 25 years, and our continuous R&D in the UK and China means we’re constantly pushing the boundaries of what flexible electronic sensor devices can achieve.
Here are 2 examples of technological developments that are helping companies bring innovative ideas to market faster:
Our developments in complex curve electronic circuits allow us to produce pre-curved electronic assemblies that conform to the shape of the end product. This breaks down design barriers around the shape and aesthetics of wearable tech.
In other words – gone are the days of rigid 2D shapes strapped to our bodies. Using these circuits with curved display technology, we can design wearable electronics to the human form. The result – a unique, ergonomic design that collects accurate data without inhibiting the user in any way.
What do these sorts of product look like?
A multi-functional watch that’s continuously curved. A bio-sensor that sits and conforms to the upper bicep. A curved rigid circuit assembly that provides the perfect weight distribution on a virtual reality headset.
This active circuitry continually flexes and moves, providing the backbone to many new sensor and wearable devices.
We achieve this through the use of patented flexible substrates, unique and highly robust conductive adhesives and component placement processes.
So what ideas do your design and engineering teams have?
If you could completely eliminate the constraints that rigid circuitry imposes, what shape, aesthetics and functionality could you incorporate? These are the questions that you need to start asking to capitalise on the growing wearables market.