Wearable Technology in the Future Will Be Seamless and Convenient

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: July 20, 2017  |  Updated: November 20, 2020

Table of Contents

Wearable technology graphic


When I was younger I was a bit of a nerd, and I guess I still am. The most visible sign of my nerdiness was my fashion sense or lack of it. Tall socks, cargo shorts, and a brown Pacman hoodie that I wore in every season, except summer, made up my daily wardrobe. I was simply more interested in gizmos and gadgets than I was in looking good. I’m still more interested in electronic devices than clothes, but the line between the two is beginning to fade. Current wearable technologies can sometimes be clunky and unfashionable. That’s why in the future, they’ll be seamlessly integrated into the things we already wear. However, looks aren’t the only concern. Convenience is also a major factor in the wearables space, and next gen devices will need to operate with less hassle than current products.



Do you remember those Heely shoes? I never had a pair, but the kids that did were the coolest around. One of the most impressive things about Heelys was how seamlessly they integrated a wheel into a shoe. They didn’t seem different from any other shoe until the person wearing them started rolling off into the sunset. Electronics will be assimilated into clothing in the same way. There are already several devices out there that are trying to combine cloth and circuits, but they’re not all doing a great job. Things like flexible circuits can help companies make the jump from clunky to chic.


They say that there is nothing new under the sun, and apparently wearable technology is no exception. While we think of wearables as recent technology, there’s one example from the early days of computing reminds us what not to do; the Nintendo power glove. This glove was everything wearables should not be, large, clunky, difficult to use, and unfashionable. That being said, if I had one I would wear it out at least once. A more modern electronic fashion faux pas would be the “Beauty and the Geek” keyboard pants. They basically wanted to put a keyboard on your crotch. While the technology is integrated into clothing, it’s not what I would call seamless.


Nintendo Power Glove
The power glove, so cool and yet so clunky. Image Credit: Flickr User mmechtley



One company that gives us an example of how to do things both right and wrong is Sensoria. I wrote about their smart sock not long ago, and it’s at once both bulky and brilliant. Currently, their smart socks incorporate an anklet and several flexible sensors into a tall sock. The flexible sensors on the pads of the feet are as seamless as you can get. The anklet is a different story. You have to roll the top of the sock down over the anklet to hold it in place, which reminds me of when I rolled down my tall socks as a child because I wanted cool short socks like the other kids. That’s something I never want to relive. Sensoria is making headway, though, by developing a new chip that can be embedded into fabric which is much better than an anklet. Now they need to take it one step further and make it flexible.


Flexible electronics have been around for awhile, and are particularly useful in areas like the aerospace industry. NASA is currently postulating about the next step in flexible electronics, fully printable flexible circuits. PCBs like these could actually be seamlessly integrated into fabric. Some companies have already begun experimenting with this concept through things like knitted electronics and dresses with embedded LEDs. These, however, don’t go far enough. The future of wearables lies in creating and incorporating flexible components like microprocessors, memory, and sensors.



Why did I wear cargo shorts all those years ago? One word, convenience. I could stuff anything into those pockets that I’d need for the day. The only inconvenient thing was how out of style they were. One of the most annoying things about today’s wearables is having to charge them. New technologies like wireless charging and in situ energy harvesting can help bring convenience to wearables.


Muscular man in cargo shorts on mountain top
I didn’t look half this good in my cargo shorts.



Charging is a hassle for connected devices. For wearables, this problem is being addressed in the more lucrative sphere of Internet of Things (IoT) sensor networks. Companies are developing ultra low power components, like memory, so that devices can drastically reduce their power requirements. WIth energy usage at a minimum, wearables could make use of things like wireless charging or onboard energy harvesting. Some companies are even exploring solar power for charging devices. Regardless of the method, wearables need to be charged without using proprietary cables and connectors.


Wearable technology is an exciting new field, but it has some hurdles to overcome. If companies want people to wear their products, they’ll have to integrate them seamlessly into the things we already have on. That kind of assimilation will require fully flexible circuits that can be directly embedded into fabrics. Looks aren’t the only thing we’re watching out for, we also need convenience. The charging mechanisms for current wearables are tiresome in the extreme. That’s why next gen technology will need to incorporate some kind of onboard charging scheme.

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About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 2000+ technical articles on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, American Physical Society, and the Printed Circuit Engineering Association (PCEA). He previously served as a voting member on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee working on technical standards for quantum electronics, and he currently serves on the IEEE P3186 Working Group focused on Port Interface Representing Photonic Signals Using SPICE-class Circuit Simulators.

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