Smart Wearable Electronics Systems (SWS) mark the beginning of yet another era in consumer electronics
The unveiling of the Apple Watch (NASDAQ: AAPL) in September marked a new era in consumer electronics. Apple isn’t the first vendor to come up with wearable electronics as for example Fitbit, but Apple’s market recognition and reach suggest wearable electronics are shifting well past the guaranteed enthusiasm of early adopters toward mainstream consumers, marking the beginning of yet another era in consumer electronics.
First there was the enlightened age of desktop computers, then there was the emancipation of computing during the era of laptops, then there was the liberating epoch of the smartphone. Now we’re staring at Smart Wearable Electronic Systems (SWS), a class of products that include wearable electronics.
But there is much more to SWS than trendy watches that monitor physical activity and serve as smart phone. There is a time in the not so distant future when everything we put on or slip on in the morning will interface electronically. This will take us where no man or woman has gone before. In laboratories across the world, scientists are integrating new materials into everything we wear with the usual sense of competitive urgency for the race to the market for SWS.
Clothes are about to become batteries, use body heat to generate electricity, monitor heart rate to predict stroke and heart attack, even monitor head injuries or become heating blankets or even stimulate muscles.
It is a tabula rasa beginning prompted by advanced in computer sciences, nanotechnology and energy storage technologies. It is innovation that we have never seen before. How can we tell? I have two rules of thumb to determine if a field is really innovative.
My first test is whether Gene Roddenberry, futurist and screenwriter of Star Trek imagined it. If Captain Kirk and Captain Picard were not into SWS, then I would say it is highly innovative. As a matter of fact the term SWS was coined in 2008 by a Phillips scientist, three years before Mr. Roddenberry died.
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My second test is whether Wikipedia has a SWS page. There is one but it is scanty, much scantier than Pamela Anderson’s page. The same applies to wearable computers and wearable electronics.
I think we are at the cusp of understanding the potential. For example, the human body releases heat all the time, a fact that is well known to engineers who build air conditioning units for public places. What if we could use that heat to generate power? Recent research suggeststhat escapes the body can be converted into energy using the generator that can be curved along with the shape of the body and produce power on a continuous basis.
Health care and military applications are staggering. Recent technological advances in micro- and nanotechnologies, miniaturisation of sensors, and smart fabrics, the continuous advances in SWS will progressively change the landscape of healthcare by allowing individual management and continuous monitoring of a patient’s health status. Consisting of various components and devices, ranging from sensors and actuators to multimedia devices, these systems support complex healthcare applications and enable low-cost wearable, non-invasive alternatives for continuous 24-h monitoring of health, activity, mobility, and mental status, both indoors and outdoors.
While SWS will change our lives, they will open up the potential for surveillance. Surveillance is the monitoring of the behaviour, activities, or other changing information, usually of people for the purpose of influencing, managing, directing, or protecting them.
Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>