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The year ahead in wearables

If 2020 is remembered for one thing, it will be the shift in consciousness, in priorities and attitudes around health. The resulting fall out as we enter the 100th anniversary of the global flu pandemic cannot be underestimated.

It is not so much that healthcare will be disrupted, but that it has been disrupted. The resulting vacuum exposed by many woefully inadequate healthcare approaches presents those with a vision to upgrade healthcare. Through predictive and preventive technologies, we are crossing new chasms and deploying impactful solutions with sensor driven human centred technologies.

It is never easy to keep pace with change, but there are some things which underpin progress. Continuous measurement of basic physiological signals could be seen as that foundation in wearables. For a decade we have had the burgeoning field of such sensors in consumer devices. Although many basic sensor technologies have existed previously, it is only really in the consumer space that we have seen the freedom for incredible innovation. Medical devices have never driven this trend. It is companies like Huawei, Samsung and a myriad of high ambition, disruptive companies who lead this revolution.


We recently published a piece on hearable technology and it is with excitement that we are working on several new applications leveraging the highly stable and sensitive measurement location of the ear canal. With orders of magnitude improvement in signal integrity compared to the wrist, the health technology implications cannot be underestimated.

Smart fabrics

It has also been a great year for fabric based technologies, with a raft of new projects gathering momentum in 2021. As materials developments catch up with the challenging requirements of fabric products, we expect to see some pretty substantial advances in the next 12 months, including cancer detection, muscle stimulation and recovery products.

Battery technologies

Of excitement in the Thrive labs was the recent announcement of major advances in flexible battery technologies and also the micro-supercapacitor technology reported by, amongst others, our friends at IdTechEx. The ‘battery bottleneck’ in wearables is always a talking point at Thrive dinner parties. These emerging advancements could well be a game changer in the medium term.

Smart glasses

Glasses have seen a resurgent since singlehandedly undermining the credibility of the entire wearable technology universe in 2008 when Google created their divisive, dystopian, head heating monstrous Google Glasses. There is a long line of equally unsuccessful and abandoned glasses products littering the intervening years, so it is with that seemingly unconducive and improbable backdrop and the near certainty of undermining my credibility, that my final long shot prediction for 2021 is that this will be the year we finally get Apple glasses.

By Dr Jacob Skinner

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