A.A. Thornton recently attended the Wearable Technology Show 2019 in London to explore the direction in which innovation is being driven in the wearables market. The event hosted an array of innovative start-ups, many of which were exhibiting ingenious technology derived from truly pioneering ideas. The technology on show was not only limited to technology which can be worn, but in fact included everything from Moon Boat’s romantic crescent-shaped electric leisure boats for two, to collaboration solutions facilitated by Xpert Eye’s smart glasses.

Hand-held devices were exhibited, such as My_Smartbottle, a smart bottle which manages the hydration levels of its user. The bottle measures the amount of liquid the user intakes using a sensor, and transmits the data in real-time to a linked app for analysis. The app then notifies the user when liquid consumption needs to be adjusted to ensure the user’s hydration levels are maintained consistently throughout the day.

FoodMarble also presented their personal testing device, FoodMarble AIRE. FoodMarble have taken the hydrogen breath-testing methods which are used in hospitals worldwide to examine the causes of digestive discomfort, and have adapted the technology for personal use. Food which is not fully absorbed by the body via the small intestine passes through to the large intestine to be broken down by fermentation. Hydrogen is a by-product of this process, and therefore its detection in combination with an understanding of which foods have been ingested by the body, and when, can provide a personalised insight into which foods are causing digestive discomfort. FoodMarble AIRE achieves this objective through a portable breath-testing device and connected app, thereby enabling users to track their digestion in real-time and personalise their diet to eliminate foods which trigger digestive issues.

Wearable devices designed to be more intimately connected with the body were, of course, also exhibited, such as the in-ear monitoring device Bodytrak, presented by Bodytrak’s Senior R&D Engineer. Bodytrak is configured to continuously measure parameters including core body temperature, heart rate, VO2 and motion, and to send the data in real-time to a cloud-based analytics platform which uses machine learning to provide health and wellbeing alerts. The device is enabled to function as both a health and safety aid and a performance monitoring tool. Within the sports sector, the ability of the device to monitor whole body physiology and movement metrics enables it to provide an informative view of its user’s performance, and even prevent the onset of heat illness and premature fatigue.

There was also a range of innovative smart textiles on show. We spoke with the CTO from the smart textile company Kymira who are creating sportswear which interacts with the human body to convert expelled waste energy into Far Infrared Radiation (FIR). This interaction is facilitated by a range of different minerals which are embedded into the fibres of the sportswear. These minerals are chosen for their ability to harness the energy produced when exercising to create an optimal emission profile for enhanced performance and accelerated recovery. FIR is known to increase the production of nitric oxide in the body, which in turn increases circulation and the bioavailability of oxygen and nutrients within the body’s tissues. These metabolic changes result in a variety of positive effects including increased glycogen levels, ATP production and breakdown of lactic acid, thereby improving muscle performance and increasing cell repair and proliferation, both during and after exercise. The release of nitric oxide within the body is also thought to mediate pain reduction, thereby reducing DOMS and even pain from chronic injuries. Although the technology is at present being marketed as sportswear, research and development is underway to exploit the promising potential the technology has for medical applications.

Technology related to wearable payment methods, emotion tracking and flexible power supplies were also displayed. The wearables market therefore appears to have extended beyond wearable technology per se to encompass a breadth of innovation, much of which is adapted to acquire the physiological data of its user, either actively or passively, to facilitate increased control over health and wellbeing. It shall be exciting to witness the benefits of this forward thinking in the years to come, specifically in the medical, fitness and wellbeing sectors.