They say if you open enough oysters you’ll find a pearl, which was certainly true of the Wearable Technology Show 2014 held in Olympia on March 18-19. Perhaps I should have paid up to be a delegate, because to me the exhibition was fairly underwhelming with little to excite. Clearly some of the exhibitors felt that way too, as at least a couple of booths had been deserted by midday on the second day. There was one star though.
Unfortunately not all the exhibitors were recorded in the “Exhibitors A-Z” in the show guide so as I had been relying on that for writing this report, I do not have a complete list. For those wondering what they missed, here are a selection from those listed, and the odd other I can remember of the high(-ish)lights:
There were a couple of smart clothing suppliers – AiQ and Clothing+ – showing their wares, and a glow-in-the-dark jacket from Glofaster. Smart watches were on display by Burg – these looked very appealing, however it’ll take more functionality, and perhaps a change of fashion, to encourage me to replace my Tag Heuer. Smart jewellery was on display by Kiroco: this returns a message whenever an NFC-enabled phone is touched on it, which is very neat and appealing as a way of personalising a present; I’m very tempted. Presumably like the diamond encrusted 2G phones on sale a few years ago, the jewellery will last rather longer than the technology though.
Waterproofing electronics has suddenly come of age, with HZO and P2i both showing feats seemingly impossible without nano-coating technology to repel moisture: to see a seemingly unprotected printed circuit board plunged into water and keep working is most impressive. Withings were demonstrating their most attractive vital signs-monitoring peripherals (although they didn’t win me as a friend by cutting me dead in spite of a pass round my neck with “Royal Society of Medicine” in bold on it). Barcodeye caught my attention because of the word “Metropolice” on prominent display although it turned out to be the company name and to have nothing whatever to do with metros or police – it merely recognises bar codes and brings up the relevant data: very useful for example for care staff if patients/service users are bar coded, though the geeky headgear, which looks like a huge Bluetooth earpiece, worn in the pictures, is a tad off-putting.
Fitness devices were well represented, including Fitbug and Misfit, the latter explaining how their device is much more flexible than my UP, as it can be worn in many ways, is waterproof to the sort of depth I’d only ever go to if I had drowned and has a battery life of some six months; they even had a tempting show offer too. I worried a tad how easy it was to pop the device out of the bracelet though – how long before it is lost? On balance I’ll stay loyal to my UP, for a while at least.
Miniaturised cameras were also in evidence. Lyte claim to take HD video although their website either is broken just now or is clearly not aimed at people of my age so there’s little more I can add. GoPro had a most impressive range of HD wearable & gear-mounted devices, with a lovely video running at the same time. Autographer did a camera that took photos autonomously, driven by a ‘sophisticated algorithm’. However compared with the next item it was bulky and obvious.
The star of the show to me was the miniature lifelogging camera developed by Narrative, a Swedish company. This clips onto clothing and automatically takes a photo every 30 seconds, complete with GPS coordinates. Tap it and it’ll take another. When you go to bed, plug it into one of your PC’s USB ports and it will both charge up and download all the photos in to the cloud overnight. Then an algorithm automatically selects the ten representative photos of the day for you – click on any of these and it shows all the photos in that segment of the day, with extra features like one-click upload into Facebook, etc. A mapping feature is being developed that will show photos on a map of your itinerary. Brilliant, and all in something about three centimetres square.
So why the excitement? Well the biggest gain I can see is for people who are beginning to get a tad forgetful, or in the early stages of dementia, as a great way to reinforce their memories of past days. It also of course is great for anyone – home help, telecare installer or such like – that may need to prove where they have been. It is so small and unobtrusive (as long as you don’t choose orange as the colour) that, unlike the Autographer or GoPro, it is effectively invisible so is much less likely to cause concern among those around one. When I get one, I’ll probably want to add an additional pin to secure it though, as I’ve lost clip-on pedometers in the past.
So, if you didn’t go, you missed little; if you did go and spotted something I missed, do drop us a comment!
Thanks to Ben Heubl for pointing out the potential of the Narrative.