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Posted on April 8, 2014 by  & 

Wearable technology - who needs what?

IDTechEx Research's new report Wearable Technology 2014-2024: Technologies, Markets, Forecasts comprehensively covers wearable technology and concentrates on wearable electronics and electrics, which will remain over 99% of the business.
Healthcare, medical and fitness are rapidly growing sectors; the following table shows some of the major global issues being tackled by wearable electronics:
IssueExample of improved solutions coming to market
Diabetes epidemic worldwide Non-intrusive wearable monitoring of blood glucose. Worn artificial pancreas.
Obesity epidemic in USA and UKStrongly linked to diabetes. Wearable fitness and exercise monitors.
Demographic timebomb - the greying of the population, most immediately in Russia, Japan & ItalyWearable electronics for self-diagnosis and treatment, providing mobility throughout life and automated diagnosis and treatment
Making the blind see, the deaf hear, sign language users speak, and helping dementia patients communicateSmart contact lenses, patches, brainwave sensors on the head
Helping the paralysed and disabled to walk and moveElectrically driven exoskeletons and prosthetics
Source: IDTechEx report "Wearable Technology 2014-2024: Technologies, Markets, Forecasts"
The trend is for wearable devices and enabling materials increasingly to share physical requirements not usually seen with most other forms of electronics or electrics, including more than one of the following:
Transparent, very rugged, washable, out of sight, flexible, foldable, stretchable, formable, morphing (changing shape on electric impulse), light weight, low cost and able to be chewed accidentally by a child without choking or poisoning. Very low power is sought even when connected to the web.
Materials and chemicals industries benefit
The scope for the materials and chemical industries to take much of the added value in this rapidly expanding business, set for over $70 billion in 2024, is therefore considerable. Indeed, just as barcodes appear on most things whether or not they are scanned, in due course some wearable electronics will be embedded as standard in certain apparel - you will get it "for free".
Typical technical needs and progress
Of course, only some of the above performance requirements apply to a given device or enabling material but most of them need ultra-low power chips and other components combined with energy harvesting - preferably multiple such as from heat, movement and light - to cope with the inadequacy of battery energy storage. We are not there yet, partly because of lack of imaginative incorporation of available energy harvesting. For example, EnOcean GmbH has deployed one million wireless sensors and actuators in buildings and these have no batteries, just electrodynamic and photovoltaic energy harvesting, and the company says that this technology could be used in wearable body area networks today.
More powerful lithium-ion batteries will appear in ten years having double the energy storage per dollar spent or kilogram/liter - this being useful but inadequate on its own if we are to avoid the tyranny of mobile phones, tablets and most wearable devices having batteries lose charge too quickly as more and more "gas guzzling" features are added, such as Near Field Communication (NFC) and bigger displays. Accordingly, development of all key enabling technologies is gearing up and workrounds are being developed, lower power electronics and electrics being important. Every time new technology provides more of the market needs, new markets open up. For example, currently, heated apparel calls for a heavy battery to be carried so it is not very popular, while the advent of washable apparel with animated light-emitting displays has expanded that market because users do not like to unclip the device before laundering the apparel.
Discover the technologies and markets

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Posted on: April 8, 2014

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