Tag Archives: wearable tech

Jun 14

With the rise of new healthcare and informatics devices, wearable electronics have seeped into the consumer space and have been quickly adopted by the medical, health, and fitness industries. Industry reports indicate that the market for wearable technology will reach $70 billion by 2025 — $20 billion was spent in wearable tech in 2015 and this is expected to jump to $70 billion by 2025 as the healthcare sector develops more programs and technologies that incorporate wearable tech.

From wristbands with heart rate monitors to calorie trackers and advanced pedometers, many consumers are jumping on the wearable tech bandwagon to keep track of their daily habits and play a more active role in their health. Human resources departments at many major companies and firms have started using wearable tech in the workplace, encouraging employees to take care of their health and wellness so they can be happier, more productive employees. But what types of implications will this have on employees of the future and HR departments at a whole?

Fitbit, one of the leaders in the wearable tech space, announced last year that it will be extending the reach of its corporate wellness programs by making sure its technologies are compliant with HIPAA laws to protect patient privacy. This move allowed the company to give 335,000 Target employees personal fitness trackers and the company already works with more than 50 Fortune 500 companies, according to a report from Fortune Magazine. This means the data Fitbit collects would only be used by certain entities. By extending the reach of their programs, more companies using Fitbit wearable technology would possibly be able to monitor their employees’ health and wellness and possibly have access to employee data.

wearable tech in HR

Companies that have already adopted wearable tech into their company culture are keeping things fairly simple, encouraging employees to pay attention to their health and giving out tracking devices in an effort to support their mission of supporting a healthy workplace. For many companies, like Target, the initiative complements the company’s efforts to promote health and wellness in the workplace.

Of course, this type of access does raise some privacy concerns and questions about whether HR should have this type of information on record — and what they intend to do with it. If companies required all employees to comply and certain employees felt it was too invasive, would these employees have the option to opt out? How much power and authority does the company have when accessing the data they collect? Would they use this information to evaluate an employee’s health status?

These are important questions to consider when exploring the idea of having HR implement any type of wellness program that involves giving employees fitness or health trackers. Some companies have already disclosed that implementing such programs is linked to being able to negotiate lower rates on group insurance policies, according to Bloomberg.

Wearable technologies are here to stay and as more consumers become comfortable with the idea of tracking their daily activities and lifestyle choices, the opportunities for data collection are limitless. However, when HR requires employees to use this technology and share data, there may be some privacy concerns. As long as employees have the option to participate without any repercussions, many companies may be able to adopt wearable tech for the workplace as part of company health and wellness initiatives.

Nov 16

As I’ve touched on before, wearable technology is bringing new and astounding changes to the world of sports. Wearable tech can improve player safety, team visibility, call efficiency and so much more. In other words, it’s a game changer — literally.

Some wearable technology is already used by athletes, but when it comes to imagining what the future could hold, the sky’s the limit. Brilliant hypothetical designs can demonstrate the potential of wearable technology to improve sports like soccer, rugby and football. Some may even be useful for non-athletes as well.

The following concepts (by Bwin via CNET) imagine how athletes’ outfits will look and function in the future. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to seeing these innovations in action on fields, courts, and rinks across the globe someday.

1. Offside lights & watches

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It can be difficult for everyone — including referees — to tell when athletes are out of bounds. With light-up offside indicators, flexible LED displays would flash on players’ outfits when they’ve crossed a boundary. This can minimize and even eliminate human error, or worse, cheating — the lights don’t lie.

GoalControl is one organization already focused on clarifying boundaries through wearable technology. In this case, the referee would have the wearable: a watch that displays real-time data based on camera footage so refs can make more accurate calls.

2. Player cameras

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Speaking of footage, imagine getting a view of a game from your favorite athlete’s perspective. With wearable cameras like GoPros in use commercially, it’s feasible that similar devices could be embedded into athlete uniforms, assuming the rules would allow it.

Already, wearable technology like Google Glass has been used to record behind-the-scene or even on-the-scene footage at sports events by both reporters and athletes. In the future, POV footage could give viewers a unique perspective of the game, while giving sports organizations a brand new product to broadcast or sell.

3. Wearable ads & statistics

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Advertising is a huge part of professional sports, as is evidenced by Super Bowl commercials, corporate sponsorships, on-site activations and more. Flexible LED displays could theoretically turn an athlete’s uniform into another screen for brand promotions.

LED ad outfits are unlikely to become the standard anytime soon, least of all in the United States. Though sports teams globally have long brandished the names of sponsors on their jerseys, it’s one of the only spaces the “big four” professional American leagues won’t advertise on.

Alternatively, LED textiles could display player statistics on their jerseys so fans can peek at the data without doing additional research.

4. LED visibility outfits

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When the weather’s bad, it’s not just moisture that makes sporting events unpleasant: bad visibility can be physically dangerous for players and bothersome for fans. High-visibility textiles, which light up in bad weather, could remedy this issue.

Though some kinds of high-visibility gear already exists, even the brightest neons won’t be of much use at night in the rain. Apparel embedded with flexible LED technology would be the ideal solution, but only if it can be powered effectively without adding extra weight.

5. Built in generators

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So how are the sports outfits of the future powered? Since clunky batteries would weigh down wearable electronics, the best solution may be battery-free: specifically, outfits could be charged with kinetic energy generated by the players’ movements.

There are a number of wearable electronics that are self-powering, some through body heat, others through body movement or even human blood. For athletes, running and jumping could someday be efficient enough to power at least some of their high-tech wearables.

6. Impact visualizers

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Lastly, here’s one type of wearable that is already making waves in American football: the impact visualizer, which (in this design) changes colors when a player takes a hit. An outfit with this kind of tech built in could flash green, amber, or red to alert referees and doctors when a player needs medical attention or a break.

Impact sensors have already been embedded into helmets, mouth guards and chin straps to measure the force and duration of collisions players endure. The hope is that recognizing severe impacts right when they occur can help athletes get treated as soon as possible, minimize suffering and long-term side effects, and prevent further dangerous incidents.

Sep 18

Artist: Zabou, Chance Street, Shoreditch, London

Artist: Zabou, Chance Street, Shoreditch, London

Athletes are a commodity. Their performance, training methods and even downtime has become more detailed science than athletic artistry. With wearable and data technologies, sports are showing a rise in audience interaction and a lowered expectation of privacy for players. Some of them are beginning to feel more like lab cases than athletes.

Brian Bulcke, a defensive lineman in the Canadian Football League, says, “I feel like a guinea pig sometimes when we talk about athletes and technology, and I stress that we’re people too.” Bulcke continues, “We’re professionals, so I think the respect line on privacy, security and all that kind of stuff needs to be maintained in athleticism, despite being entertainment.”

Because the Canadian lineman works as a business development lead for a program that mentors tech companies at Ryerson University in Toronto during off-season, he can speak directly to both sides of the struggle. Part engineer, part athlete, Bulcke is attempting to develop tech that takes the ‘guinea pig equation’ out of the locker room. However, he believes it will ultimately come down to athletes playing a more active role in the conversation about the ubiquitous uprising of tech in sports.

“It’s the athletes and the people on the frontlines that will help define the industry. We’re the early adopters but we’re also a megaphone for the rest of the athletes in the market,” adds Bulcke. “Over the years we’ll see more and more athletes permeate into the wearables space.”

His advice is for players to give pushback if the lines between personal and professional tracking becomes muddy.

“I do think there’s a line there, and we focus purely on when you’re at the workplace, and the workplace for athletes is when you’re practicing or playing games or doing rehab and assessments,” said Brian Kopp, president of the North American division of Catapult, an Australian company whose wearable devices are used in major league teams in the NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA and college-level sports programs. “When you go home and you’re doing whatever on your own time, you’re not wearing our device […]”.

But what is most disconcerting to athletes? The more metrics and tracking big-data algorithms, the higher the likelihood for negative salary negotiations based on performance data during very specific training sessions. In other words, players aren’t allowed bad days — big data is always watching and recording. Sports fans have very little sympathy. According to a portion of fans, players as entertainers who make inordinate salaries; if tracking enhances the audience experience, it’s justified.

“The insights that come from the data that evolve and advance the story and make the game potentially more interesting for fans – that’s where I see one of the big opportunity areas, and we’re already starting to see that,” says Stacey Burr, vice-president and general manager of Adidas’s digital sports business unit. “I don’t know how that whole world works, to be honest with you; we’re just providing facts and figures, and I think there’s somebody else that has a set of mental models that they use in terms of what the future opportunities are for individual players.”

Wearable technology continues to generate massive global revenue for sports, fitness and activity monitors. As the wearable tech industry is expected to grow from $1.9bn in 2013 to $2.8bn in 2019 (according to analytics firm IHS), the sports tech versus privacy subject will most likely heat up as well.