Thinks about Wearables as our Sixth Human Sense


(T) There are so many developer events and hackathons, and so many announcements from various market players about wearable computing, that it is somewhat challenging to keep a “sane” and “objective” view of the technology. The confusion comes from many reasons: technology is still a work in progress, products are immature, applications and use cases are still evolving. All of that makes that field particularly a fun segment to explore, and the media have obviously noticed it. However, behind the hype, there is certainly substance but someone needs to dig to find it. So why don’t you and I try to do that?

The confusion starts with the definition itself of what is wearable. Someone could argue that a smartphone is a wearable device. So that makes that over a billion of humans are already carrying a wearable device with them. However, better positioning of a wearable device is that it is more likely to inherit and combine the functionalities of both a smartphone and an embedded device. Some wearables will have screens, some will not.

Definitely, wearable will need in order to succeed to be natural, social, and practical. And, everything that is wearable can obviously be fashionable and use to make a personal statement. In the end, the real or perceived value of a wearable shall be higher than the cost of wearing it. The human body is the most beautiful and expensive piece of real estate.

But for any sound technologist, the key to wearable computing is the sensor. Forget about processors, memory, and screens. This is the “old” thing. The “new” thing is the sensor. The sensor is what defines the wearable. Think about it.

There are three ways to use sensors in a wearable, which defines the possibilities of a wearable: sensors that sense the human body (internal to the human body), sensors that captures the external environment of the human body (external to the human body) in order to help either the human body or the human mind, and sensors that do a combination of both.

We are all familiar with sensors that can see (cameras), hear (microphones), and feel (touchscreen). But there are many other types of sensors that we are not always fully appreciated: motion sensors (for movements), positioning sensors (for time/space locations), environmental sensors (for the physical attributes of the environment), and so on…

Imagine all the possibilities when you creatively combine them! And, this will likely create a new generation of silicon, system and application software that will be tailored to the wearable application.

So if the substance matches the hype, maybe wearables could become the sixth human sense? But we are not there yet!

Note: The wearable in the picture above is hidden :).

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Categories: Internet of Things