September 04, 2018 | 7min read
Wearable Tech in Business—All You Need to Know
According to Forbes, just 50 million wearable devices were shipped in 2015 and over 125 million are expected to in 2019. Numbers don’t lie. Wearable technology enhances our experiences in many ways but most of all, makes them smarter. The term “wearable” itself covers more than it did 10 years ago. It’s not only about sport, healthy lifestyle or tracking—it’s also about comfort, personal development, security and much more. It’s about gadgets, lifesavers and everything in between too. Most of all—it’s all about business.
The term Wearable Technology (wearables) covers the whole group of devices that can be incorporated into the clothing or worn on the body as implants or accessories.
As this definition may seem too general, let’s have a quick dive into details. So what can we call a “wearable tech”?
For instance, all kinds of sport trackers like smart watches, heart rate sensors, smart bands, implantable tech, smart jewelry, smart glasses or eye lenses. Also—custom devices that may increase knowledge, facilitate learning, enhance the experience or unleash your sport potential.
As comfort and utility play crucial roles in the wearable technology, devices are getting smaller and more powerful than ever before. Only some of them are equipped with screens that would allow a partial experience of adjusting and playing with the wearable hardware. Therefore there is a need not only for a control panel but also for a device that would cover the full product experience. This can be covered by a dedicated mobile app. The examples listed below cover just the top of the surface… Imagine what can be achieved with just a mobile app and a piece of hardware. It looks like “the sky’s the limit” as this is a constantly growing market area. Things that we currently consider as impossible may be available on the market in just a couple of years (or months).
Here I’ve gathered some of the coolest—in my opinion— wearables out there:
The times when tech devices were too big to wear or not too fancy to try on are gone. This ring enhances your image and can be worn as a jewelry. Features? It allows you to make a call (just imagine those faces when you’ll be talking to your hand!). It opens locks too—I expect that opening offices or homes will be much more comfortable now. Forgot your wallet? No worries, you can pay with it. Always forgetting your phone? This Xenzo S-Ring will remind you to take it! Xenzo S-Ring actually has even more features so head over to their website to check them out!
A sleeve that can improve your basketball shots. It’s easy and comfortable to wear plus it automatically tracks, learns and analyzes over 50 metrics of your shot. Instant audio and visual feedback help users perfect their shots.
Humon Hex is a real-time muscle oxygen wearable that helps endurance athletes train smarter by monitoring the way their muscles are using oxygen in real-time and providing them with data updates concerning their physical state.
A good example of the fashion tech: shoes which can change not only color but also a pattern that could match your current outfit.
Wearable keyboard, mouse & controller that turns anything into a smart surface. I’m definitely buying it!
Have you ever consider building a wearable solution? Or are you just interested in the tech behind it? Let’s assume that we have a perfectly crafted hardware and we’d like it to be connected with a mobile app.
Firstly, we need to consider the technology behind the mobile app and choose native or react native approach.
React Native is a framework created by Facebook and its goal is to provide a smooth and easy cross-platform mobile development. It means that you don’t have to create an iOS and Android app separately. You can read more about React Native’s potential for business here.
React Native is widely used by big brands (Bloomberg, Gyroscope Health, Uber Eats, Instagram etc…) so you don’t have to worry about it going anywhere in the next couple of years. Why should you choose React Native in your business? Fast app delivery is definitely a big advantage, including spending less time on regression tests. Plus, your development team can consist of way less people than in the case of a native project.
Is React Native better than the native development then? There’s no straight answer here—it all depends on the specific project. If you need both iOS and Android platforms to be supported in a really short time then go for React Native—it will definitely be faster and cheaper for simple MVP projects. If, however, your project involves only one platform, for example iOS and there is a need for multiple fancy animations and super-specific features like ARKit, then Native will be a much better solution here.
Since we’ve touched native vs react native approach considerations, let’s talk about communication protocol. Our mobile application definitely should be able to communicate with a wearable hardware and vice versa. Nowadays, the most common approach is BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy). BLE is nothing more than just another wireless communication standard. Bluetooth was designed to exchange data within a close reach (usually 10m, depending on a particular area) without a need to physically connect elements. Although Bluetooth technology spread around the globe, it was an energy-consuming solution. In the meantime, wearable hardware was getting smaller and the desire to create a battery lasting a lifetime was still growing, so the Bluetooth standard was no longer enough. There was a need for a new solution that will be energy-efficient, relatively cost-optimized and small in order to fit into a wearable hardware.
This is where BLE comes in.
Bluetooth Low Energy is not backward-compatible with the previous Bluetooth standard. Therefore in order to use it with either an Android or iOS application, you need to set a minimal supported version of OS. For Android that would be Android version 4.3 (Jelly Bean), iOS min version will be iOS 7 along with iPhone 4s. (Apple source, Android source)
Think of all the use cases of a wearable product. Even though the supported range is about 10m (which should be more than enough), there are some situations in which elements located in the devices’ communication path can behave as great resistors. Even the human body can be one, which we’ve experienced in one of our projects.
If you are into a more complicated ecosystem, you should definitely consider the IoT approach. Connecting multiple devices allows for a more immersive experience. Within different devices there is always a new possibility to differentiate the way data is being acquired and presented to the user. Although device quantity usually goes with more complexity and challenges.
You should start with diving deep into design and UX. Apart from answering users’ needs in the first place, think about making it simple and fun. If users enjoy playing with an app, they’ll stick to it and use it on a daily basis.
It may also happen that having just a graphic interface might not be enough. There are hundreds of product user cases, where using a voice interface instead would be much more convenient—athletes like runners or simply vehicle drivers really appreciate such solutions.
After choosing the right tech and devoting the time to UX design, there is still a major thing to be addressed: stability. Remember all those situations when any of your devices just run out of battery? All those scenarios along with simple phone calls or text messages interruptions have to be covered, and data needs to be properly secured, no matter what wearable solution you’re into.
BLE connection might be unreliable. If you are transferring precious data and you would rather not lose them, remember there is a serious risk that they may be gone for good during their transfer—consider storing them locally on wearable hardware side and resent them whenever possible. That way all your data will be secured.
Even though our wearable has been perfectly crafted, with extra attention to details along with a mobile application that covers everything from the business perspective, there is still a solid part to be addressed: firmware. A piece of software that will be running on our wearables hardware. Firmware update might be a major challenge if you haven’t considered it at all. Make sure that some kind of firmware update will be supported, for example OTA (over-the-air) update. In the end you don’t want to produce them one more time and send to every single user, right?
Releasing a perfectly crafted piece of software and hardware that is not meeting customers’ expectations because of its faulty behavior is definitely worse than providing users with a simple, yet working solution. My advice? Start with setting the right direction of the project, guarantee the stability of the solution and make sure it responds to users’ needs. Once you got that, then comes the time to add all the fancy features you’d imagined.
Wearable tech is definitely a growing business area. Judging by the numbers, we may argue that 2020s will be all about super small devices making our lives smarter. If you’re interested in making a wearable device—get in touch, we’re here to help!
Director of Delivery