Preface

Before we deep dive into wearables, let's take a look at the Internet of things, famously known as IoT.

The Internet of Things (IoT) describes physical objects (or groups of such objects) embedded with sensors, processing ability, software, and other technologies, connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the Internet or other communications networks. (Gillis, Alexander (2021). "What is the internet of things (IoT)?". IoT Agenda. Retrieved 17 August 2021.)

From homes to industries and even large-scale enterprises, the Internet of Things devices has become commonplace more than ever before. It has the potential to connect everything and everyone, creating an innovative and interconnected world. However, this is only the start of the IoT revolution. To uncover the full potential of IoT, businesses require to understand where opportunities lie for value creation and identify and address the underlying challenges.

IoT has been used in a number of pioneering new applications and devices to enable the migration of the Internet beyond people. In Japan, sensors have been used to irrigate rice fields that can automatically detect when the rice fields need to be watered and what amount needs to be dispensed. It then automatically releases this amount.

The simplest example of IoT devices is the use of a smartphone or a smartwatch to connect to other devices in your home. With the capabilities of IoT, you can remotely unlock your home, turn off the security system and control the temperature of the thermostat.

One of the most widespread applications of IoT seen today is in the use of wearables or smart wearable technology.

Wearable technology

Wearable technologies refers to electronic devices (products) intended to be worn on some part of the body by individuals in order to track, analyze and transmit personal data. In its early days, this technology was considered by researchers as an isolated consumer product. However, since its evolution, it is now increasingly designed as a component of a set of systems based on the Internet of Things (IoT).

The wearables industry is still young and is continuing to evolve based on new research. Thus there is a need to develop concrete design principles that can dictate how these wearables will be designed, which improve their ability to meet user needs and be successful in the market.

In these systems, the user experience design is based on high connectivity, and here the internet of Things becomes critical.

What are wearables?

Wearables are electronic devices like fitness trackers that have motion sensors that take a snapshot of your daily activity and sync them with mobile devices, desktop computers, laptops and other smart devices. These devices can be worn as accessories, embedded in clothing implanted in the user's body, or even tattooed directly on the skin.

Wearables are essentially hands-free devices. They are powered using tiny microprocessors and can send and receive information.

Wearables have received widespread attention and have become rapidly adopted by consumers. This has put wearables and the associated technology at the front of the Internet of Things or IoT.

variable iot watches

Even before wearables like smartwatches and fitness trackers entered the consumer market, these wearable devices were used by the military in military technology. Soon these devices such as 'Wearable Motherboards' or 'Smart Shirts' became essential to the military forces in the medical and healthcare departments. They were able to monitor the health and being of the person wearing them and send information in real-time to the hub station.

Since the invention of smartphones, wearable devices have been the next big thing in wearable tech.

Regarding the Internet of Things, wearable technology is evolving into an important category, as it can have life-changing applications in medicine and other fields.

Fitness activity trackers were the first wearables to catch the attention of consumers. As they evolved, smartwatches were developed, which had a screen as a part of the wristwatch. Developers added more mobile applications to increase the capability of these smartwatches. With the development of virtual reality and augmented reality headsets, more and more wearables became available in the market.

Evolution of Wearable Devices

The evolution of wearable devices from consumer accessories to more specialised applications.

While the emergence of wearable electronics stems mostly from consumer demand, wearable technology has several applications. These are;

INFOTAINMENT

These can be devices that are used to inform and entertain and include music, photos, videos, provide GPS directions, and even email.

ACTIVITY TRACKING

These features are seen most commonly in smartwatches and fitness trackers and include applications used to monitor activities and functions such as walking, sleeping, heart rate and food consumption. They provide consumers with personalised feedback based on the data they collect, upon which they can take suitable action by modifying their behaviour.

HEALTH MONITORING

This is predominantly used by patients suffering from a diagnosed condition to monitor their vital information. The development process for such devices tends to be extended because regulatory requirements and privacy concerns make several rounds of testing mandatory before these devices can be released for public use.

INDUSTRIAL AND ENTERPRISE APPLICATION

These centre on wrist-worn terminals that provide real-time data. They are helpful to monitor factory processes and can alert workers when it is time to update stock. Devices like smart glasses and bands are expected to be rapidly adopted for remote, 'deskless' workers in the industrial segment.

SOLDIER SYSTEMS

These integrate personal networks, sensors, external communications and power to manage these systems. These subsystems need to be high performing, durable, rugged yet lightweight.

Designing Wearable Devices in
the context of IoT

Depending on the complexity of the device, systems involving wearables can be both simple and complex. Advanced navigation devices, typically used by mountain hikers can connect directly to a GPS system. In this kind of system, there are no smartphones.

When designing wearable technology, it is important to keep in mind the distributed system architecture. The impact it has on the design is that the functionality of the device is distributed across several devices. All these different devices have their own capabilities. This inter usability between devices is what creates a seamless user experience.

Organisations and designers need to consider how users will be interacting with the device and its associated system architecture to create the optimal user experience. The human and technical limitations such as the range of the wireless network, the design etc. need to be taken under consideration.

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