Wearable technology isn’t just a fashion statement. It doesn’t start and finish at the Galaxy Gear smart watch, or Google Glass. Wearable technology has the potential to change our lives and make a real difference in the everyday lives of ordinary people.
In fact, wearables really started in the medical sector, allowing doctors to monitor patients using flexible tech that negated the need for clunky, large equipment. Not only do medical wearables allow doctors to download real-time information from patients, and therefore being able to tailor their treatment in a proactive rather than a responsive manner, but it also has a big impact on the running of health establishments.
Because flexible plastic wearables are so small, and the technology is now so advanced that information can be sent via a wireless connection to any computer, patients that would previously have taken up a bed because they were forced to remain in hospital can now be monitored in their own homes. This also has the benefit of putting the patient back in familiar surroundings rather than the clinical environment of a hospital or care home, which in turn has been shown to have a beneficial effect on recovery.
Looking after Ourselves
It’s all very well relying on the medical profession to take care of our well-being, but wearables have the added advantage of putting ordinary people back in charge of their own health and fitness too. Sports bands such as Fitbit are proving to be immensely popular, not just among athletes but also with ordinary people who want to take back ownership of their fitness. By having real-time information that can be downloaded instantly onto a smartphone or tablet, fit bands are revolutionising the way we stay active.
Cisco estimates the number of wearable devices in use will jump from less than 22 million in 2013 to almost 177 million by 2018. Indeed, some industry influencers believe that this number may be rather conservative, particularly considering the rate of development wearable technology is undergoing.
Never mind smart watches and AR glasses, flexible plastic electronics could change the face of modern life completely, as Indro Mukerjee, CEO of R&D specialists Plastic Logic, commented recently:
Flexible electronics is a reality, already proven through the development and manufacture of plastic, bendable displays and sensors. For the first time a fully organic, plastic, flexible AMOLED demonstration has been achieved with a real industrial fabrication process. This marks the start of a revolution in wearable products, the next frontier in consumer electronics – 2014 will be the year that wearable technology starts to go mainstream.
The Environmental Considerations
But there’s one important factor that the wearables industry has to take into account, and that’s the environmental impact of developing plastic-based wearables. The use of non-renewable resources for the development and manufacture of modern technology is having a major influence on our environment. Consider that the vast majority of components are produced from petroleum-based plastics, and it’s clear that the current level of production is unsustainable.
Flexible technology and wearables uses far less in the way of natural resources, and there is currently a great deal of R&D to develop new and more sustainable ‘plastics’, as well as reducing the use of energy-inefficient devices. Plastic Logic’s own flexible screen technology, for example, only uses energy when the image is changed. No energy is required to sustain a static image. Technological developments like these could make flexible electronics and wearables not only desirable in the future but environmentally friendly too.