Wearable technology seeks new materials to enhance functionalities

July 08, 2019 //By Antonios Oikonomou
Created in 1780, the world’s first pedometer was developed using an earlier mechanism of a self-winding watch. Technology to ensure we meet those all-important 10,000 steps has come a long way since then, but the wearable technology market for health and fitness is constantly looking for new materials, to continue development and innovation.

Dubbed as the ‘year of wearables’, 2014 witnessed a surge in wearable technology for health applications and, since then, the rate at which products are released has not slowed down. According to a report by Euromonitor, units of wearable technology are projected to exceed 305 million by 2020, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 55 per cent.

Antonios Oikonomou, Business Developer
for Wearables and Optoelectronics at the
Graphene Flagship.

Health and fitness are amongst the most successful application areas for wearable technology. Research by Gartner states that worldwide shipments of wearable devices will reach 225 million in 2019, an increase of 25.8 per cent from 2018. However, despite an increase in sales, the technological advancements of wearable healthcare devices have decelerated.

Take fitness tracking as an example. While there have been a huge number of products released, such as smart watches, activity bands and clip-on trackers, there has been little development in technology beyond style, design and aesthetics.

Smarter wearable devices, such as those that can be weaved into clothing, implanted in shoes or concealed on the wearers skin, are only now being developed into marketable products. For instance, Graphene Flagship partner ICFO designed wearable health tracker, that is flexible, transparent and disposable, rather than a typical watch-style design. This patch has the potential, in the future, to accurately monitor several aspects of the wearer’s bodily functions, including heart rate, hydration, oxygen saturation, breathing rate and temperature.

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