The rapid growth of the wearable technology market continues, triggered by advances in sensors, battery technology, structural supports, and data analysis software including big data and neural net deep machine learning. Without market acknowledgment, acceptance, and enthusiasm, however, growth would be much slower. Applications in personal health, clinical care, fitness, sports, military, and workplace markets lagged at first but are now growing at their own high rate as stakeholders realize the potential advantages in value and profitability. Forbes forecasts 411 million smart wearable devices, worth a staggering $34 billion, will be sold in 2020.
New entrants in wearable markets are no longer compelled to grow their own technologies, but can increasingly choose from known and establishing brand names with compelling or unique product capabilities. We’ve written about Valencell’s precise biomedical sensors and Lumo BodyTech’s Motion Platform open to third parties for licensing or adoption. New Zealand-based StretchSense has joined the wearable tech world as a component source, calling itself “the leading supplier of smart stretch sensors.”
StretchSense sensors are flexible capacitors similar to rubber bands. The sensors measure electrical capacitance as they are deformed geometrically by movement. Embedded in clothing, the sensors measure and report extension, bending, pressure, and force. The company sees applications in augmented and virtual reality, fitness and athletic training, and healthcare rehabilitation and recovery.
Stretchsense sells development kits for body motion, hand gesture measurement, compression sensing in shoes, and capturing, storing, and discharging energy while walking or running for self-harvested power that can make batteries unnecessary. According to StretchSense, their latest sensors are softer and stretchier than previous versions and can be stretched to three times their original length.
I had my own fill with rehab and recovery following months of physical therapy associated with rotator cuff surgery on both shoulders in 2013 and 2015. I can foresee a time when a therapist in that setting would provide a wearable garment that would measure and report on patient compliance and performance of the home exercises that were vital to complete recovery.