Wearable electronics are attracting increased attention from consumers and Credit Suisse recently forecast that the market for wearable tech could be worth $50bn (£32bn) in five years or ten times its current value, making it what the bank described as “mega-trend”. In response to this growing trend a number of companies have unveiled new products targeting the market.
Heapsylon, a US based company, is developing sensor equipped socks that could be used to prevent running injuries and other foot-related problems. The socks – the Sensoria – have been designed to monitor a user’s balance whether they are walking or running.
In China another company has developed the Geak Ring – a finger-worn device that can unlock a user”s smartphone or pass data to others through the use of Near-Field Communications.
Analysts expect to see a significant uptick in product development and experimentation but have warned that many products could turn out to ‘duds’. The Juniper Research consultancy has warned that the wearable tech market is still in its infancy and that some of the smaller firms getting involved might not survive.
The three co-founders of Heapsylon originally worked for Microsoft”s Xbox and health software divisions. The Sensoria socks have been designed using sensors that have been built into the fabric of the sock. The sensors measure pressure readings and are able to provide data about how their owner is either walking or running.
The socks are attached to an ankle band that uses Bluetooth to send data to a smartphone or computer that is running the firm”s software. The proliferation and suitability of the Bluetooth Low Energy 4.0 communication protocol is proving a major driver in this market.
According to the sock’s developers the device could have an important role to play in healthcare. For example it could be used to help monitor diabetic foot ulcers or warn carers if elderly patients are losing their balance and are at risk of falling.
Shanda, the Chinese company that has unveiled the Geak Ring, said that the device could be used to pass contact details between friends. The product is currently only a prototype, but the firm, speaking to Bloomberg News, said that it hoped it would be able to bring the product to market later this year following a fundraising campaign.
The ring uses an NFC (near field communication) chip to identify the accessory. The firm says this can then be used to unlock a range of Android smartphones by tapping the two together as an alternative to keying in a password. It aims to make the ring compatible with other manufacturers” phones before the end of 2013.
The device is said to also be able to trigger downloads of the owner”s photos, contact information and other data on to friends” handsets by touching them against the ring.
Shanda has also unveiled an Android-powered watch that offers a range of wrist-worn apps including weather forecasts, exercise feedback and a remote control for smartphone cameras. The company said that it will start taking pre-orders from China-based consumers for the watch in July and the ring the following month.
Among the big technology firms Samsung has confirmed it is working on a smartwatch concept, and reports have suggested Apple and Microsoft also have such products in development.