Julie Sylvester

If the world of technology implies innovation, certainly one of the foremost developments was the creation of Bluetooth. Initiated in the 1990’s with the intention of developing wireless headsets, it has become the world’s wireless communication standard and the backbone of the exploding “Internet of Things.”

In the world of “wearables,” bluetooth technology has generated the fitness tracker which has moved from the world of sports and fitness into the realm of wellness, a huge consumer market. Formally conspicuous devices, fitness trackers have become so stylish that they are now often considered fashion accessories. There are trackers for every level of fitness consumer; one of the criteria that set some apart are their degree of accuracy. Now, in terms of monitoring biometrics, the recent shift seems to be moving from the wrist to the ear.

Headsets are ubiquitous: earphones, ear buds are everywhere, people like to listen to music, to pod casts, to YouTube videos, etc. As a monitoring point, the ear is preferable to the wrist, more stationary and reliable when measuring such things as heart rate and blood pressure. However, it is just recently that companies, such as North Carolina’s Valencell, have developed sensors small enough and discriminating enough (i.e. sorting out the usable data) to make the ear bud the go to device for fitness. Obviously, ear buds are not only ideal as a monitoring device but as a coaching device as well: gather the data, evaluate it, and immediately inform the user how to adjust and better perform. As usual, the initial market will be the elite athlete craving the most accurate information in order to compete at the highest level, but the potential consumer market is huge.

Wireless headsets have been around for awhile but as major corporations such as Samsung and Apple enter the market, the technology will be pervasive and the potential for innovation extensive. There is some irony as bluetooth technology was created twenty something years ago specifically for wireless headsets. Now the ear is the next frontier in utilizing our own bodies as the generator of a better life. Companies, such as Nuheara, are developing “intelligent” earbuds that enhance our hearing by isolating and enhancing sounds. The future promises personal assistants and immediate language translation.

Wearable technology is still in its infancy. The complexity of the human body is enormous and scientists and engineers are just beginning to generate data that can only lead to an improved lifestyle. Spire is a company that uses a wearable device to inconspicuously monitor breathing and measure stress. Companies are studying the brain, hoping to find usable data to improve one’s focus and concentration, even measure our feelings, ultimately leading us to not only our physical, but emotional well being as well. Physically fit, emotionally content: welcome to the world of wearables; welcome to the world of feelables!