Wearable Tech Digest - March 2017

Samsung’s new contactless payment 

Samsung’s Contactless Companion Platform (CCP) includes a smart chip that can be incorporated into wearables such as key fobs, watches, or jewellery. It enables contactless payment from enabled devices. Working with Smartlink (a VoIP and communications company) and Ingencio  (a POS machine manufacturer) the payment service works on a pre-paid, top-up system where the user credits the account with money via a smartphone app, online or via POS terminal. The user can put time-limits on the account. The press release states that watchmakers Winwatch and Montfort have developed mechanical wristwatches with the technology embedded, and that a Swiss fintech company will soon be releasing CCP-enabled smartcards in some Eastern European countries. 

Smart clothing

Smart clothing is moving from the lab to the shop floor and sports stadiums:
Lumo Run is a clip that can be attached to a jogger’s shorts to monitors cadence, bounce, braking, pelvic rotation and stride length. The information gained from the sensor is analysed and sent to the user via a smartphone as audio feedback on the user’s performance. It can be pre-ordered now and is due for release in October 2017; it costs USD90. 
Ralph Lauren has released a shirt that monitors heartrate and breathing with a band of integrated silver wires that circle the user’s chest. The information is gathered by an attachable black box that sits on the side of the chest under the arm and transmits information to the user’s smartphone which will then audibly advise the user on their run. The shirt is available to buy now and costs USD295.
The MLB (Major League Baseball) is working with WHOOP to bring its wearables to the 2017 baseball season in the US. The players will wear a fitness tracking device on the wrist or ankle both in-game and off-pitch (to monitor sleep quality etc.). The information gained from WHOOP can then be used to optimize a player’s lifestyle for best performance on the diamond. 

Gold film for wearables

Researchers from Missouri S&T have developed a way to grow a thin layer of gold onto single crystal wafers of silicon, remove the newly formed gold foil layer through photo-electrochemical oxidation and then use it as a substrate on which to grow other electronic materials. The team says that their material can be bent 4000 times without any significant change in electrical resistance. They have managed to create gold film that is only seven nanometres thick, making it almost transparent. They see this having potential future uses in flexible, or wearable, electronic devices. 

Ripple: the wearable that lets you feel the love

Ripple is worn looped under the arm and over the shoulder where its tentacles wait to alert the user to the attentions of a would-be lover. Designed by four Royal College of Art students the device’s camera monitors the user’s environment looking for people that look at him/her for a long time. The device will send a haptic ripple up the user’s back to inform them that this is happening. If the user then turns to face the person it will indicate through a tap to the chest who was looking at them. 

Sensors in fabrics

Researchers from Empa in St. Gallen, Switzerland, have produced flexible, polymer optic fibres that can be used to create sensors woven into textiles. The team tested the sensors in a disinfection wash cycle and they were not significantly damaged. They believe this would make the sensor suitable for hospital use, to monitor circulation and prevent bed sores. The researchers said that future work could include adapting the technology to create textile sensors that monitor blood oxygen saturation, or metabolic rate. 

Touch-sensitive fibres

North Carolina State University researchers have created an elastic, touch sensitive fibre that works with electronic devices. The fibre comprises three twisted strands of polymers with a liquid metal alloy in their centres. One is totally filled with alloy, another is two-thirds full, and another only one-third full. When the fibre is touched the capacitance changes with the movement of the touching finger allowing a connected system to tell which part of the fibre is being touched. The application in wearables is clear, however the team also see it being used in soft robotics where flexibility is essential. 

Robotic wearable to help surgeons

Researchers led by the University of West England Bristol are developing a robotic exoskeleton for the hand that can be used by surgeons to help them perform keyhole surgery. The project is a EUR4 million project and has nine partners including Southmead Hospital. 

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