FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, March 11, 2005

Next-Generation Wearable Computers

The next generation of wearable computers and electronics is being designed to be discreet, rugged, comfortable and stylish... as well as more functional than previous designs.

A handbag being developed by MIT, for instance, can keep track of one's belongings via RFID chips and otherwise effectively serve as a PDA. It could cost as little as $150, and is upgradeable. A health monitoring arm band by BodyMedia can help wearers monitor their stress and exercise levels, and can contribute to weight loss programs. "Smart shirts" are being developed for emergency workers to help monitor distress levels, and for the chronically ill, so that caregivers can constantly monitor their condition.

Many of these advances are thanks to new electronics that are flexible and washable, and to new fabrics such as Du Pont's Kevlar-based Aracon, which looks like ordinary fabric yet can conduct electricity. Sales of wearable computers and electronics are expected to rise sharply in the coming years, from just over 260,000 units last year to hearly 1.4 million in 2008.

Sources: BusinessWeek, Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends