This two-part blog series discusses the future of wearables and mobility in an #InternetOfEverything world.
Check out the first post of this series that discusses why contact, connections and context will drive the next generation of wearables.
When 24-year-old Jason Barnes lost part of his arm in an electrical accident, he also lost the ability to drum. Thanks to engineers at Georgia Tech, he now has range with his artificial hand that is impossible with a normal human hand. Arguably, now he has new capabilities that other musicians don’t have – all because of an incredibly advanced replacement part.
If you consider how wearables may evolve, we may see a time where people take a perfectly good limb, eye or ear and replace it with something synthetic because it gives them a skill that they haven’t had before. Perhaps it gives a solider infrared vision at night or a baseball pitcher a robotic arm that throws a perfect game.
These new capabilities will propel us into a new phase of human history – this period of self-designed evolution. As the power of Internet of Everything (IoE) technology merges with biology, we can create a self-evolving population. Let’s take a step back and look how this has developed over time.
How it Began
If you look back throughout human history, we’ve always adorned ourselves with some kind of capability. Usually it’s because we want to differentiate ourselves or show status or an association with a tribe or group. This has traditionally been accomplished through wearing jewelry, getting tattoos or piercings and so on. Today, we’re beginning the wearable phase and it’s about smart watches, glasses and jewelry, but tomorrow will bring the era of embeddable technology.
As we’ve seen in current research and market trends, today’s wearable device market is growing. With 160 unique wearable devices currently on the market, it’s clear that wearables are not just a fad. Rather, they are a part of our mobility continuum, and they will continue to evolve. This evolution will be responsible for wearable devices becoming much more than a device on your wrist. As we’ve seen possibilities for patients with embedded pacemakers and connected contact lenses, the next iteration of wearables will help us live longer and healthier lives.
Here’s a look at the different phases of wearables and embedded technology we will see as advancements in mobility drives the Internet of Everything (IoE) forward:
Wearables become Embedded
We are already seeing the practical applications of embedding connected devices out of necessity or in order for us to enhance our natural abilities. Here are a few examples:
The PillCam, a small pill built to transmit up to 50,000 images during its journey through the body can prevent invasive procedures like colonoscopies.
Cochlear implants: Today, someone born deaf can now have a cochlear implant embedded, which can give them hearing that they didn’t have before.
Brain machine interfaces: Brain-controlled prosthetic devices are being produced so a person who has lost a limb can control a prosthetic device or wheel chair with their mind through a brain machine interface.
In addition to these developments, another movement called “biohacking” is driving people to embed other connected tech into their body. For example, some biohackers are embedding magnets into their fingertips so that they can sense different things in the environment. They can tell for example, if a microwave is turned on or if a wire they are touching has a current going through it. Take for instance the electrician, who can tell just by touching the wire that there’s electricity flowing. They can even use it to measure distance, temperature and other things.
Another example of a biohacker is the gentleman that has RFID implants in his hands so that he can easily store data and complete other tasks such as unlocking his computer, car, and his home. Some extreme cases of biohackers include people that are embedding complete cell phones under their skin to monitor biometric data. This is a bit extraordinary today, but when those sensors become much smaller, it will become more and more commonplace to embed this type of technology.
Wearables Become Replacements
Recently, it was announced that the first ever Cybathalon will be hosted in Switzerland for augmented humans in 2016. The global sporting event will feature humans that have some type of electronic augmentation, such as competitors wearing prosthetic limbs and exo-skeletons. This event may look like science fiction of yesterday, but it’s rapidly becoming science fact. And while the second phase of wearables is certainly provocative, there is much we can learn about how connected devices and wearables will serve as replacements.
Whether it’s prosthetics, brain machine interfaces and even 3-D printing of new organs, we’re starting to change who we are. We’ve become ever intertwined with mobile, connected technology and there’s no going back. From a human condition perspective, we’re starting to challenge the very definition of what it means to be human, but of course we need to make sure that we don’t lose our humanity in the process. There are many ethical and moral concerns about this evolution, but I’m certain that the future is not filled with cyborgs and machines. Instead this technology can be a tremendous benefit for humanity, not a replacement for humanity.
What do you think will be the next wearable? And how are today’s wearables changing your life?
At Cisco, we care about IoE and connections because we enable it. For more predictions about where the future will take us, check out a new Future of Mobility Podcast I recently participated in with Glen Hiemstra, CEO of Futurist.com. A summary of the podcast can found on SlideShare.
- Wearable to Aware-able: Contact, Connection, Context
- Future of Mobility Podcast: Wearable to Aware-able with Glen Hiemstra and Dave Evans
- My #InternetOfEverything Perspective: Why the Global Society Needs IoE
- Wearable 2.0: The Future of Mobility on WIRED Innovation Insights