Dateline: 26 January, 2020

Location: Local park

Time: 6:45am

Activity: Exercising with personal trainer

Smart Activity: Postural hypertension detected by the LG Lifeband Touch smart watch/biometric recorder I’m wearing.

Action: Information transmitted to cloud and an alert sent to my health professional at her surgery.

Reaction: The OLED screen on the forearm of my personal trainer’s Intelligent Human Integrated Technology (IHIT) sweatshirt lights up in response to receiving an alert from my doctor, letting him know that I have low blood pressure and that I shouldn’t move from a sitting position to standing too quickly.

In 2020, wearable technology is part of every day life now, but back in 2014 it had its doubters. At that year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where devices in this new category appeared in numbers for the first time, commentators were asking the question: “Wearable technology – a fad or the future?”

The 2014 show highlighted LG’s wrist-worn OLED Lifeband Touch with heart rate measuring headphones, the Pebble, Sony’s Core, the LumoLift and Samsung’s Galaxy Gear smart watch. It also marked the first time we saw Google’s attempt to “share the world with the world”, via its new augmented reality, Google Glass.

These devices showed SMS and email messages, measured basic biometrics and wirelessly communicated with smartphones via Bluetooth WiFi, NFC or the cloud to record and/or display information, so the technology then was fairly basic compared to the sophistication we enjoy a mere six years later. That didn’t stop it from catching on fast, however. In 2014 Berg Insight accurately predicted a total of 24 million global shipments of wearable devices. This year (2020) that figure is predicted to be closer to a spectacular 995 million units.

In 2020, wearable technology has been as successful as the mobile phone (in terms of dollar value and units sold) because it allows us to do the things we were already doing, but more seamlessly and instantly, and with immediate feedback.

Key to the take-up was the female market, which came on board in 2017, when design, style, enhanced functionality and performance coincided with greater affordability. In Australia, it was when telecommunications companies, government and private health agencies introduced subsidies for wearable devices that we saw the technology become as common as the microwave.

The health imperative

In 2020 we no longer just use technology. Instead the technology is being embedded in devices that are not only on us, but everywhere around us – at home and at work. Wearable technology is the key driving force behind what has evolved into today’s Internet of Things (IoT) era.

LG’s IHIT is a popular example of how this technology has embedded itself in industries, such as health, not immediately recognised for rapid technology adoption. The adoption has been spurred by financial imperatives, of course, with the reality facing most developed countries being that of hospital systems overburdened by an ageing population.

The Sony Core: a precursor to 2020's sensor-driven data-centric health monitoring devices.