A SHORT HISTORY
OF WEARABLE TECH
1975 – Wrist Calculator:
Pulsar develops a wristwatch
for on-the-fly mathematics.
1976 – Insulin Pumps:
the first wearable and
system for diabetics.
1979 – Walkman: Sony
introduces a wearable
cassette player, ultimately
selling 200 million units.
1982 – Heart-Rate Monitor:
The first wireless consumer
monitor is created to help
train a Finnish ski team.
1984 – Computer Watch:
Seiko develops a computer
watch with portable keyboard.
“Wearable devices, or ‘wearables’ for short, have enormous
potential for uses in health and fitness, navigation, social network-
ing, commerce, and media,” wrote Sarah Rotman Epps, a personal-
computer analyst at Forrester Research. “Imagine video games
that happen in real space. Or glasses that remind you of your col-
league’s name that you really should know. Or paying for a coffee
at Starbucks with your watch instead of your phone. Wearables
will transform our lives in numerous ways, trivial and substantial,
that we are just starting to imagine.”
For many companies, the first step is researching project pos-
sibilities. Global design firm Frog recently tasked each of its eight
studios with conceptualizing a piece of wearable technology. Pro-
posed projects ranged from a bracelet with up-to-the-second sub-
way information to a navigational system for the visually impaired
that uses sonar proximity sensors. The team based in Shanghai,
China developed a concept called Air Waves, a mask that filters air
while also measuring pollution levels and transmitting that infor-
mation to a larger network.
“The next step in wearable technology is moving from passive
data—like collecting steps taken—to helping the user in real time,
such as a device that gives direction for navigating a new city,” says
creative director Jonas Damon, based in Frog’s New York, New
York, USA office.
1999 - GPS Watch:
the first GPS-equipped wristwatch.
1999 – Continuous Glucose
Monitor: Medtronic launches
a wearable sensor that
monitors blood glucose
every five minutes.
2000 – Bluetooth Headset:
Hands-free wireless phone
calls become possible.
2012 – Smartwatches:
as Pebble and
2008 - Activity Monitors:
Fitbit starts the personal-fitness trend of wearing
accelerometers to track
Sell It With Style
When it comes to developing wearable devices, style should be
front and center, says Mr. Damon. “People, especially in the West,
don’t want to stand out with wearable tech,” he says. “It’s geeky.”
To create a cooler look, many project managers are folding
fashion into the planning process. In February, Google partnered
with Warby Parker, an e-commerce site known for its trendy eye-
wear, to help design fashionable frames for its Glass project. And
Google provided models at fashion designer Diane von Fursten-
berg’s 2012 fashion show with Glass eyewear.
Smaller brands aren’t shrinking from the style challenge either.
Dallas, Texas, USA-based tech company Meta Watch LLC recently
developed Strata, a wireless “smartwatch” that enables wearers to
check email, text messages and social media.
Project managers looking to develop something users will
wear every day need to focus on both style and durability, says Bill
Geiser, Meta Watch’s CEO.
“A lot of wearable products out there look just like a rubber
bracelet,” says Mr. Geiser. “They don’t have any personality.”
To create a product with both endurance and panache, the
company extended the project’s design phase to allow for exten-
sive testing. The Strata smartwatch, which launched in July 2012,
is so waterproof that wearers can take it in the pool for a swim.
Near Future - Google Glass and i Watch: Google and
Apple are busy developing wearable smart technology.