It’s been a bumpy road for wearables, but after years of development, they’re finally starting to gain serious traction in the consumer electronics sector.
Only serious investments and technological innovations by companies like Fitbit and Apple showed users the value of having a wearable device apart from the cell phone.
But while heart rate tracking wearables and smartwatches are becoming more prevalent accessories, that doesn’t mean that the market has plateaued.
And there’s no more promising innovation on the horizon than 5G.
In the same way that improved cell technology has transformed our cell phones into all-in-one devices, the next evolution promises to make wearables more essential than ever before.
A Technological Revolution
In the bigger scheme of things, wearables are just one variable in a much larger set. Ultimately, some exciting changes coming to wearables could arise not because of what smartwatches can do with 5G but because of what 5G promises for other technologies.
The wearables of today are to a large extent not replacements for cell phones but accessories to them.
While local storage options allow you to listen to music on the go, heart rate monitors allow for tracking independent of your cellular device, and with GPS capabilities, many of the core functions that justify a wearable purchase only work within the limited Bluetooth range of your phone.
5G could change that.
While the Internet of Things has become a popular phrase for how all of our smart devices work with one another, 5G could create a similar ecosystem that doesn’t tether these devices to your local Wi-Fi network.
Imagine a future where all of your smart home devices can be controlled by your watch regardless of where you are, and you will understand the possibilities.
The smartwatches of the immediate 5G future probably won’t be supplanting phones soon, but they can serve as a more easily accessible hub that won’t require you digging your phone out of your pocket to connect capably with the important people and things in your life.
More Precise Tracking
As we mentioned earlier, most modern wearables come with GPS built right in. It’s one of the existing conveniences that don’t require Bluetooth to function.
But these aren’t always that accurate.
If you’ve ever used one of these devices to track your daily run or a hiking expedition, you probably recognize how frustrating the limited GPS estimate of approximately 15 meters is.
Instead, 5G uses short wave radio frequencies that can track the user in real time. Your GPS will tell you exactly where you are, and that means devices you can use to navigate your way around your favorite city or guide you while you’re out on the trail.
It can also create a significantly safer world for your loved ones.
While GPS trackers intended to let you keep tabs on your kids and pets are already in production, the short wave frequencies offered by 5G can tell you exactly where they are on a second by second basis.
And the ability to sync up multiple watches on the same 5G network means all you must do is take a glance at your wrist.
A Medical Revolution
The vast majority of smartwatches on the market today are foremost health devices. They track your sleep patterns, let you know how many calories you burned in a single day, and even serve as a primitive personal trainer.
5G will make this tracking significantly more convenient by uploading, analyzing, and providing access to this information without relying on a phone as an intermediary, but that’s just scratching the surface of the impact these devices could have on your overall health.
Liability considerations prevent healthcare providers from using data from a patient’s cellphone to make a diagnosis, and current consumer wearables are too imprecise to gather meaningful results, but 5G is a disruptive force that will change the market.
That’s because of the speed and volume of data that 5G can transfer compared to its predecessor.
The real-time data that a 5G wearable can deliver to a doctor can allow them to make diagnoses on situations far quicker, cutting healthcare costs and saving lives.
Even more exciting is how 5G wearables and artificial intelligence will work with one another.
By drawing from a user’s vital signs during daily activities of exercise, algorithms will be able to more accurately identify points of triangulation, compare them to similar activity in the larger pool of users, and alert wearers to potential health problems.
It’s an approach to big data that would be impossible for human healthcare professionals to accomplish on their own and unheard of with the current radio networks available.
New Forms of Immersion
When we talk about wearables, the natural assumption is that we’re talking about smartwatches or activity trackers that you wear on your wrist, but 5G could bring a whole new breed of wearables to market.
While cell phone apps have toyed with the notion of augmented and virtual reality are available, they’re just touching the surface of what could be accomplished.
All you have to do is look at Google’s failed experience with their Glass experiment to see what the future could hold.
While Google may have been held back by the limitations of the time, goggles or glasses backed by 5G speeds and processing power could take these to the next level.
While it will take some time for developers to learn how to make the most of this tech, smart glasses that allow you to shift from a heads up display of your surroundings to your favorite streaming service seamlessly are well within the realm of possibility.
And it could even change the way we see the world by allowing us to share what we’re seeing with our friends and family in real time video.
Heather Redding is a content manager for rent, hailing from Aurora. She loves to geek out writing about wearables, IoT and other hot tech trends. When she finds the time to detach from her keyboard, she enjoys her Kindle library and a hot coffee. Reach out to her on Twitter.