Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman annotating a technical drawing

Insight - 07/14/22

What is Wearable Technology?

5 min

By Meghan Day

What is Wearable Technology?

Here at Interwoven Design our design niche is the intersection of soft goods and wearable technology. We love the challenge of making rigid components work seamlessly with body mechanics, which is an area of design that pushes for innovation in materials and construction as well as in electronic components and integration strategies. We explained what soft goods design is, but what do we mean by wearable technology? What does anyone mean by it? 

On the surface, wearable technology is exactly what it sounds like: technology that is worn on the body. That said, as with any product category, there’s a bit more to understanding it than that. At least these days, technology here usually means smart electronics, or electronics that can ‘talk’ with other devices. Wearable tends to mean close to or actually on the skin, allowing for the detection, analysis, and transmission of information about the body. Smartwatches and fitness trackers are popular examples of wearable technology, or wearables, for short. For their smart technologies to function, you have to wear them throughout your day.

A baby wearing the WithMe device. WithMe is a small, repositionable sensing unit designed by Interwoven that works with a smart-enabled device to deliver vital information about a baby’s wellbeing to a phone or tablet.

How does wearable technology work?

The capabilities of wearables are all over the place, ranging from basic to complex, which means that how they function varies a lot, too, and often depends on the product category in question. Usually they use micro-sensors to gather information, and some combination of microprocessors, batteries, internet connectivity, and bluetooth technology to be able to sync with other devices. This synchronization is most likely in real time, providing immediate biofeedback in the case of a wearable collecting biometric data, like a fitness tracker, or location services in the case of personal safety devices. They are an important and growing category in the Internet of things that creates an ever-expanding network of devices around us.

What is wearable technology for?

The applications for wearable technology are numerous and growing. Wearables might be medical devices, clothing or clothing accessories, fitness devices, jewelry, or something else entirely. They might be assisting with navigation or rescue, providing biofeedback to refine athletic performance (like the Remo Haptic Training system), facilitating medical monitoring (like the WithMe baby monitor), providing entertainment, as with AR and VR headsets, offering consumer convenience, as with smartwatches and wireless earbuds, and much more. As they are worn on the body, they are hands-free devices that offer the wearer unencumbered movement along with the service they provide. 

Interwoven Wearable Technology Case Study:

Delta Gloves

a figure lifts weight wearing smart technology fitness gloves: Turn reps into results faster with gloves that track your workout.
The Delta Gloves track your workout in real time and transmit the data to an app on your smartphone.

We worked with PureCarbon to develop the Delta Gloves, connected strength training gloves that track people’s workouts, including exercise performed, sets, reps and weight.  All the information is transmitted to an app on your smartphone.

We considered a wide range of criteria,  including fit considerations, strength, breathability, insulation from the electronics and moisture management. In the case of this specific wearable, an electronic circuit contains sensors to detect weight. That circuit is printed onto a flexible film that’s laminated onto fabric and placed in the lining of the glove.

A figure lifts a weight wearing smart technology fitness gloves
A circuit is printed onto a flexible film that is laminated onto fabric and placed in the lining of the glove.

One of the key innovations in this project was the developing a fit for the glove that would allow for high athletic performance as well as high electronic circuit performance. Circuits printed on flexible TPU film allow for a greatly expanded range of applications in wearable technology, being flexible, washable, and durable. They don’t offer much stretch, however, and they don’t breathe. We worked through these limitations by applying the film only to select areas between the lining and the shell, and by using materials with moisture-management properties. We added mesh ventilation inserts between the fingers to release heat accumulating within the glove. 

Mesh ventilation inserts between the fingers allow heat accumulating within the glove to be released.

What are some more examples of wearable technology?

Medical, Health & Fitness

Using wearables to track health and fitness metrics is incredibly popular. Devices that track metrics like heart rate, blood pressure, calorie intake, and menstrual cycles are increasingly prominent in the market, in part boosted by the rise in personal health and hygiene caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Devices developed specifically for use in hospitals and the medical community are a growing subcategory.

Smart Clothing

Smart watches, shoes, clothing, and jewelry fall into the category of smart clothing, also called intelligent fashion. These are wearable devices that offer service and fashion in one, integrating technology to provide useful data, or perhaps to create a dramatic visual statement, as in the case of the Fiber Optic Tutus we created for the Brooklyn Ballet. 

Gaming

The gaming and entertainment industries were key pioneers in exploring wearables like smart glasses, VR and AR headsets, and specialty controllers. These remain at the cutting edge of what these industries have to offer, and aim to create increasingly seamless interactions between the user and the media experience. 

There you have it!

Wearable technology is our wheelhouse, so we could talk about it all day. Wearables are devices that incorporate smart technology and interface with the body to generate data that can be used in a number of ways, from medical health and daily fitness to virtual entertainment and fashion innovation. Check out our Insight posts to learn more about what we do at Interwoven Design. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Instagram and LinkedIn for design news, multi-media recommendations, and to learn more about product design and development!


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