What is near field communication?
Wearables are increasingly becoming a part of daily life. Wireless technologies are not only used to transmit health and fitness data, but can even be used as electronic wallets.
According to market analyst Gartner, more than 310 million “wearables” were sold in 2017. Wearables are small electronic devices which are worn on or even inside the body, often in the form of small accessories such as wristbands, brooches or watches.
They do not offer the option to integrate a display or a keyboard, and often only have limited processing and storage capacities – without wireless technology they would therefore be inconceivable.
The most commonly sold wearables are Bluetooth headphones – around 150 million of these alone were sold in 2017, and the numbers are expected to increase over the comingyears. The reason for this, according to Angela McIntyre, Research Director at Gartner, is this:
Payments with wearables
Most people associate the term wearable with fitness trackers. At least 44 million units of these smart wristbands were sold in 2017, however the market is weakening.
This could be the result of the increasing functional scope of smart watches, which make an additional fitness tracker unnecessary.
Fitbit, one of the leading providers of these smart wristbands recognised this as well, and thus brought out its own version of a smart watch, the Fitbit Versa.
“NFC” stands for “near-field communication” and has become widely used as a technology for contactless payment. To make a payment, users only need to briefly hold a device with an NFC chip in front of the reading device of a correspondingly equipped point-of-sale terminal.
In order to be able to use this service, you must first download a corresponding wallet app, in which a payment type (credit or debit card) is stored.
When your shirt talks to your smartphone
The wearables market is generally moving away from wristbands and smart watches – at least according to a study from Juniper Research, which identifies smart clothing as the fastest-growing sector in the wearables market. Juniper estimates that – due to the development of conductive textiles and intelligent sports clothing by companies such as Sensoria, Lumo and Under Armour – nearly 30 million pieces of smart clothing will be sold in 2022.
By comparison, only 7 million pieces are expected to be sold in 2020. An example of such a networked piece of clothing is iimo by Teiimo, which has integrated the electronics into the textiles in such a way that they are imperceptible by the wearer.
The system measures heart-rate and movement data, and stores and analyses this data. iinMotion, for example, recognises whether the body is balanced during running, or whether one leg is doing more work than the other.
The data is wirelessly transferred live, for example to a mobile phone or a smartwatch. The training data is then analysed in detail in an online portal.
Reducing stress through play
Wearables are not only helpful during training. They are becoming increasingly important in the health sector as well. “Healthcare usage has long been the goal of many wearables manufacturers,” remarks James Moar of Juniper Research.
“However, more research needs to be done on activity tracking in order to make typical wearables data clinically meaningful to healthcare professionals.”
Nevertheless, various health-oriented applications already exist today. The SimyBall, for example, is aimed at people who wish to relieve stress and to train themselves mentally in an entertaining way.
The ball is then used as a controller for various games, using which the user can train things such as relaxation and breathing techniques.
Smartphone-compatible heart monitor
Wearables are not only used on the body, but also inside it; wireless technologies are making it possible to communicate with implants without needing to pass a communication interface through the skin.
The small, implantable Confirm Rx heart monitors from Abbott have been used in clinical settings for several years, to name one example.
What is new, however, is that the heart-rate data collected by the monitoring devices can now be transferred via Bluetooth Low Energy to the patient’s smartphone.
They can then share the ECG recordings of the heart monitor and also communicate using their doctor at the same time using an interactive app on the mobile phone. The new generation of heart monitors allows patients not only to record their symptoms on their own smartphone, but also to describe certain occurrences in more detail. Thanks to an automatic sharing function, they also save time and money.
“If we want to determine the causes for unexplained heart attacks or stroke events, we rely on the support of our patients,” explains Dr Georg Nölker. He heads the catheterisation laboratory for electrophysiology at the Heart and Diabetes Center North Rhine-Westphalia in Bad Oeynhausen, Germany, where patients were given the networked heart monitor for the first time.
“Smartphones are always available and easy to use. We hope that this will provide us with more detailed information about rare occurrences which appear for a limited amount of time. This should help patients in the future with fast diagnosis and treatment.”