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Innovation in Wearbles

For years I have decried the fact that a lot of wearables are Very derivative. There is the 'light-up hat', the 'light-up purse', the 'shoes-with-lights' or the 'light-up T-shirt'. Oh yes, and the Fitbit and its clones. There has been a lack of innovation. I think the factors leading to this phenomenon are two-fold.

The first is lack of imagination and the second is fear of failure.

It is easy to see why these two go hand in hand. It’s far easier to reinvent the wheel and market your new improved wheel than it is to come up with a fresh new idea and bring it to the public. Some years ago I saw a presentation for a shirt that had electronics circuitry woven into the fabric. The shirt was meant to monitor healthcare information (sound familiar?) but the technology was rudimentary and the cost was prohibitive. In the grand scheme of things, as far as I'm concerned, it was a goofy idea but this was the kind of innovation that leads to workable derivatives. An $800 white shirt that measures your heart rate is a little 'out there' but if they got it down to a $50 t-shirt for use in long term care or rehabilitation situations, I think there could be a market.

With the return to school upon us and the pandemic still a threat, wearables have taken on a whole new use: To assist us in taking care of those who we can not be physically with. More than just fitness trackers or light up party favours wearables have always been available as a substitute for a loved one who can't physically be close. But just as the steam engine was invented many years before the industrial revolution, but never caught on because there was enough free labour from slaves in ancient Greece, technological revolution stalls out when there is no perceived need.

The needs of the human race have changed drastically in the last few months and it may be similar to the industrial revolution finally embracing the steam engine. Going back to school will be the largest collective gathering since March and moving beyond masks, temperature taking watches, or position reporting backpacks will finally find a need in our communities. Necessity is the driver of innovation and without a vaccine wearables could be the best way to assist in curbing the spread and creating a healthier community. Once the initial innovation has been conquered, much like software engineering catapulted computer programming into the stratosphere by Margaret Hamilton when she wrote the code to get the Apollo missions to land on the moon. Wearables are also on the precipice of achieving a similar revolution through the necessity of mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Which direction will they take? Which use will wearables be most known for? Well that remains to be seen.

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