Wearable technology has come a long way from the 17th century Chinese abacus ring and the calculator watches of the 1980s. Innovation in microchip manufacturing led to on-chip sensors, such as GPS, compass, gyroscope and biometric sensors, allowing device manufacturers to incorporate additional features. These sensors allow smartphones, fitness bands, smartwatches, and other devices to detect movement in any direction and react accordingly by changing screen orientation or sending data to connected devices. The appetite for wearables has no indication of waning, with IDC predicting that global shipments of wearable devices will almost double by 2019.
Wearable Tech in Action
Given the early adoption of wearables for personal fitness and health monitoring, it’s no surprise that the sports industry is a big fan of the technology. Coaches harvest wearable tech data from players during practice and make decisions based on this information. Examples of wearables used in the NBA include heart rate monitors, bio harnesses (measure heart and breathing rates, core temperature and movement), and motion sensors to analyze movement patterns. In fact, 57.31% of respondents to our recent survey said wearable tech that tracks real-time performance had the most positive impact on athletes.
When it comes to game time, it’s another story as most professional sports associations have banned wearable tech during competition. Some of the reasons for delay include legal concerns on who owns the data, player contracts, and a desire to prove the technology benefits before allowing implementation in competition.
Soccer, tennis and cricket already allow wearables in competition. Referees and umpires wear smartwatches that connect directly to perimeter cameras and alert them when a ball has crossed the line. Many of the top European soccer leagues use player tracking systems with clothing sensors that prompt coaches in real-time, aiding decisions for player rotation or substitution.
With wearables, the possibilities are practically endless. Broadcast quality streaming from player during a game has already been tested. Smart tennis rackets can calculate the speed of a shot, calculate spin, accuracy and more. It is fair to say that practically every sport can benefit from wearable technology during practice, training and competition.
Tech Skills Needed for Wearables
The obvious growth in the wearable market is good news for technology candidates with skills ranging from hardware design, software development, telecommunications (especially Bluetooth and Wi-Fi), network administrator, and cyber security. Wearables are a small part of the Internet of Things domain and candidates with experience of smart buildings or building automation are highly desirable in this market, given that integration is likely.