The Wearable Technology Show 2016 (WTS2016) this year in London’s ExCel features connected technology alongside the Augmented Reality Show and IOT connect show under one roof.
Being able to be there for only one day, I was very keen to make the most out of it exploring cutting edge technologies across a multitude of fields, innovative start-up showcases from around the world as well as few keynote talks. To make this experience more productive, I thought it would be useful reflect on a one-day explorative journey and bring some useful insight on how education can benefit of these cutting edge technologies in the future.
The wearable show was segmented into fitness and sport performance, medical and healthcare, smart home, enterprise, fashion, and augmented reality. The market of wearable has always promised to be massive, yet until the last couple of years when we started to see increase in the adoption of smart watches fitness trackers and smart glasses in the consumer market, its market has started to grow significantly.
What was new at the show and what are the potentials of wearable in education?
- Monitoring students’ physical activities to enhance performance at schools and universities.
It appears to me that there is a clear move in the status of wearables form trial and tested projects into showing real applications of the technology in the industry. Interestingly but not surprisingly, health, fitness and sport wearable were dominant in the exhibitions, and smart fabric products particularly had a lot of attention and interest at the show. These providers showcased how wearer of smart clothing can have insight about their physical training, sleep, personal daily activities and listen to their body. As these have been developed to meet our modern life needs, the technology embedded within the fabric is the more important if we think about our students and their demands.
For example, if we think of the EGG and HRV that are embedded in the Hexoskin Biometric smart shirt to collect and monitor data about our physical activity, these could also be used to tell a student when he is most fit to take an exam or help to calm down to prepare for one. Taking this to the next level by using wearable for gesture recognition for example, it could also be used to address different aspect of disorders like attention deficient disorder by allowing valuable feedback options.
If this collection data is also integrated with the data of the learning platform institutions use, there will be a lot of opportunities to support students in achieving best performance and empowering them to objectify their own emotional states in order to improve concentration, for example.
2. Wearable in training and vocational courses at colleges.
One of the keynotes that I really enjoyed, discussed the potential applications of Wearable in the Oil and Gas Sector. The session was very inspirational, talking about the potential values of using wearable technology to make the gas and oil industry more efficient and safe, immediatly bring to my attention the application of that in any engineering field or vocational training courses at colleges . The opportunities wearable could provide in conjunction with virtual reality and augmented reality glasses could be revolutionary. In training, for example, workers/engineers who are exposed to many potential hazards in their every day life could find using a range of wearable devices very useful in providing them with information on the work activities in many different forms. This could allow a more accurate and real time feedback on hazardous and challenging situations and as a result, the opportunity to make real time decisions and immediate responses will be more possible. In colleges, implementing virtual reality experiences that immerse students in dangerous situation could be implemented in training courses at college to allow students perform and react to problems in a safe environment.
What is next?
Considering the challenges for wearable form safety to power consumption, the technology will be at some point integrated into every facet of our lives. However, in my view, giving more focus to the user’s experience is still needed. We need to design more and more personalised experiences. Ease of use of the technology is an important factor but in reality, what matters more is creating contextualised and personalised experiences for users. For example, smart watches or fitness bands promised to enhance people’s productivity and effectiveness, if they are only collecting more and more data and accumulating information, that means they are still not mature enough to meet the desired needs of the users. We all need tools that can make predictive suggestions tailored to our individual needs.
Throughout this brief observation of the show, I have learned that we need to look beyond the tasks the targeted audiences want to achieve, and in order to do so we need to determine first what the user want and why.
What I believe could be also be useful at this stage is having some sort of partnership between researchers and designers/ providers to examine the efficiency of these devices in different industry applications. Evidence of success or failure is always useful of inform barriers and privacy concerns of users and so would help achieve sustained engagement.
In the future, every student will be a walking data centre, and going to university will be a real time information event. If wearable devices become mature enough to provide personalised feedback to students, learning analytics will become more and more effective.
At the end, it is not only about the technology.
Finally, I was very amazed to see few school students around in the show chatting with delegates and very enthused to try new technologies. My curiosity to know the reason for them to be at the show, drove me to chat with few of them. What I realised was that, there needs to be plenty of opportunities for students to have creative spaces where they can engage in trying new techs and create things that they could bring back to class. Not only does it help make STEM subjects, for instance, more interesting but will bring teachers and students all together to an informative space to let their imagination come to play.