Smart Diapers And Talking Dogs: Where Wearable Technology Is Leading Us

Wearable technology is fast creating a world in which technology is no longer an add-on. Instead, it is literally attached to us. It is embedded in our lives, generating and mining data in a way that is useful and functional, both for us and for marketers.

It is no longer uncommon to see people wearing smart watches, like Pebble, or tracking their fitness with armbands such as UP and Nike+.Google Glasses are a regular topic of conversation whether it’s a skydiving tech demo or Jon Bon Jovi’s keyboardist wearing them live in concert.

The data we actively generate defines who we are in the digital age and how to best reach us for marketers. This data includes stats on how far we run, what we eat and our sleep patterns. It also includes geotagging and the trove of information we upload to social media.

All of this data is going to play a much bigger role in our lives, both in terms of the benefit from the technology we wear and the ability of companies to meet our needs when, where and how we need them met.

Wearable technology is already evolving beyond just the “cool” to the beneficial:

  • Smart Diapers by Pixie Science, out of New York, detects possible urinary tract infections, kidney dysfunction and dehydration via infants’ diapers. It transmits the information directly to a physician via a smartphone app. The diaper has a small patch on the front, containing chemical agents that have different reactions depending on which proteins are present in urine. If the levels are abnormal, the color on the patches changes. At the end of each diaper use, a parent uses his or her smartphone to take a picture of the QR code-like patch, which is analyzed by the accompanying app to determine whether the baby has a UTI, if the kidneys are healthy, if the baby is hydrated, and, even detect type 1 diabetes, thereby providing valuable information about a baby’s health.
  • The FIDO project through the Georgia Institute of Technology is developing wearable technology that aims to improve communication between working or assistance dogs and their handlers. The dogs communicate with their handler or owner by biting or tugging on sensors fitted into their collar or vests. The sensors activate either audio commands that handlers can hear in their earpiece or visual commands that appear on a head-mounted display.
  • Finnish start-up Uniqil announced a new technology last week that enables customers to buy products by using face recognition. All the customers have to do is present their face to a camera in a store that uses their device, and the transaction is processed.

The idea of objects we use benefiting us has the ability to take the power of technology beyond the individual to the larger community. For example, adidas’ Nitrocharge “Power Pitch” harnessed the in-game energy to generate the energy for the pitch-side lighting. And Soccket by Uncharted Play is a regulation-size soccer ball that converts kicks and headers into off-the-grid power. With it, two hours of play produces enough wattage to light an LED for at least a night.

It’s clear this is only the beginning. In the future, it seems likely we will have devices that second-guess us or make intelligent connections for us. It is not far-fetched to imagine that such technology is going to help marketers to microtarget even more. The next logical extension is to leverage things we already take for granted, such as Amazon recommendations, and send them to our devices to help make purchase decisions based on our preferences.

Wearable technology’s evolution is changing not only our behaviors but also our relationship to the world.

Judy Abel is a planning director at gyro New York.

Follow Judy @tuffyabel