‘Wearable Technology’ showcase introduces sports/fitness products and technologies of the future

Garments and gear with built-in electronics are the way of the future in the sports, health, fitness and outdoor industries. SNEWS® explores the “Wearable Technology” platform and its new conference and award for products using Bluetooth low-energy.
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Technology isn’t just on a desk, in a case, or in our hands. More and more, these days it’s part of our clothing and personal items. Although we have seen jackets with built-in GPS devices, backpacks with solar panels, and heart-rate monitoring performance gear, these have just scratched the surface of what is possible -- and what is being explored by companies and individuals globally.

One platform that has been giving an opportunity for development and exploration of new products and technology was created nearly four years ago by Navispace AG in Germany (www.navispace.de) and its founder Christian Stammel, who specializes in technology marketing and consulting. “Wearable Technologies” (www.wearable-technologies.com), a type of think-tank, lets companies work on and promote their new ideas, technology and products with a little bit of help and support. Wearable Technologies refers to apparel with built-in electronics or electronic devices and to new materials that enable functions beyond conventional applications.

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“As a specialist for technology marketing, I was constantly confronted with new developments and possibilities in the area of wearable technologies,” Stammel told SNEWS in an email interview from Spain. “I have a belief in the great chances for this market in the future.” 

At the ispo winter 2010 show for the fourth time, Wearable Technologies presented a number of sports, fitness and lifestyle products in a platform that allows companies to explore eventual commercialization. Some of those in the showcase were just concepts, some were reality, and some were technological concepts that may become part of a product one day.

For example, a SportsCurve (www.sportscurve.com) representative had only a prototype, which we couldn’t touch, that touted real-time “trace and tracking” in a GPS device no larger than a pack of cards. It can monitor people, or be used as a tool to track sports or personal fitness -- all in real-time. O-Synce (www.o-synce.com), which we profiled as a part of a SNEWS® story about ispo’s BrandNew products on Feb. 22, 2010, allows navigation and tracking with a finger touch and uses Google maps to help athletes guide their way (photo - left). CSEM (www.csem.ch) of Switzerland, for example, has a headphone with integrated sensors that allows a user to monitor his or her heart rate via the headphone. It uses patented technology to monitor the subcutaneous blood flow to track pulse. It is a supplier and was at the show looking for possible partners.

Other companies in the platform at the ispo show in Germany Feb. 7-10, 2010 -- about 16 of the 150 involved in the concept -- included both suppliers of materials (for example, Bemis, CRT and AiQ) and manufacturers of product (CicloSport, Garmin and GoPro). Many of them debuted during the show in the new WT Shop (www.wt-shopping.com) for products that are on the market.

“We are living in a very fast-changing communication society, and we should be able to adopt new technologies and new possibilities, as well as integrate them into existing everyday items or create new ones,” Stammel said. “We have the possibility to use technologies to upgrade our personal lives.

“It’s very exciting to see what’s possible,” he added, “and how future visions turn into reality.”

Bluetooth Wearable Technology

Another aspect of the Wearable Technologies platform is a new special interest group for Bluetooth low-energy products. Click here to read more about the platform. According to Andreas Anderson, Bluetooth marketing manager for Europe, the Bluetooth group has about 12,000 members, but this is only for the new low-energy Bluetooth technology that was just realized in December 2009. The competition, which was begun this year for products in the sports, fitness and health areas, had 250 applicants.

“It was a lot bigger than we anticipated,” Anderson told SNEWS at the ispo show about the ideas that were entered.

The winner was Edward Sazonov, of Physical Activity Innovations LLC of Fort Collins, Colo., which is working on a new concept called “Fit Companion” (www.physicalactivityinnovations.com). Prototypes now being tested include sensors in footwear or as something else worn, such as a sock or clip-on, which monitor activity and send data to a cell phone.

“First, the cell phone automatically recognizes postures and activities performed by the user (for example, sitting, standing, walking, jogging, cycling, etc),” Sazonov explained to SNEWS in an email. “Second, key characteristics for each posture and activity are computed (for example, time spent sitting, number of steps taken, cadence, velocity and other characteristics of walking/jogging). Third, very accurate estimates of energy expenditure are computed to estimate the amount of calories burnt in each activity.

“Finally, the cell phone provides real-time biofeedback to boost metabolism such as, ‘You’ve been sitting too long -- time to get up and take at least 100 steps.’ The key differentiators for our approach are, one, the ability to monitor daily activities, not just specific exercise; two, high accuracy which is much better than anything on the market right now; and, three, real-time biofeedback and community support.”

Naturally, winning the award will bring recognition and exposure to Sazonov.

“The award is a great honor and recognition of the market potential for Fit Companion,” he said. “It is also a recognition of the rising epidemic of obesity and overweight which is spreading all over the world. We hope that our product will have a positive effect in the fight against this epidemic.”

Already applications are available for the 2011 Bluetooth conference (click here to see details). To find out more about the 2011 Bluetooth award, click here

“The future is now,” Stammel said. “More and more manufacturers are dealing with the possibilities of wearable technologies. I think in the next few years wearable technologies will become an inherent part of our life. We are also always looking for new companies and developers who are interested in wearable technologies to enlarge our network and to achieve more advantages for our members.”

--Therese Iknoian

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