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Published:November 21st, 2014 09:14 EST
Wearable Tech: Five of the Latest and Greatest

Wearable Tech: Five of the Latest and Greatest

By Anne Laszlo Howard

Wearable Tech: Five of the Latest and Greatest

By Carly McCall

Wearable technology is the next wave of mobile hardware innovation. Dozens of manufacturers are competing for real estate on the bodies of savvy consumers the world over, and wearable tech sales are slated to top US$5 billion in 2014 (http://www.statista.com/statistics/259372/wearable-device-market-value/) with the year`s biggest shopping season expected to round off a strong Q4.  A few short years ago wearable tech was seen more as a novelty, and consumers and industry pundits laughed and rolled their eyes over the prospect of augmented reality eyewear and inflatable vests that offer "hugs` via Facebook. However, today`s wearable technology is taken very seriously as potentially game-changing in terms of productivity, health and fitness, business communication and more.

2014 has seen some truly stunning innovations in wearable technology, both from the big established tech companies and from some exciting young start-ups. Many have hit the market just in time to feature on Christmas wish lists this year. Let`s take a look at five of the newest wearables making a splash this year:



Samsung Gear S (www.samsung.com/global/microsite/gears/) Samsung`s latest smart watch offering (one of four in 2014!) is a wildly ambitious offering that attempts to double as a full standalone smartphone " made possible with 3G and Wifi connectivity. The Gear S boasts a big, shiny 2 inch curved AMOLED screen, 512MB of RAM and 4GB of internal storage " as much as some of the full-sized smartphones still on the market.  The Gear S is a health and fitness companion as well; employing enhanced multi-sensors, native GPS and Samsung S Health functionality. The growing Samsung Gear ecosystem has its own operating system and app micro-store, but the Gear S does still require pairing with a fairly new Samsung smartphone to install apps and set up features. The Samsung Gear S is the closest yet to that futuristic dream of a standalone wrist gadget for all one`s connectivity needs (remember the Jetsons` wristwatches?) and is an indicator of interesting advances to come in the very near future. Prices starting at US$349.92.

Arki by Zikto (www.arkiband.com) Brand-new player in the wearable tech sector, Zikto is an award-winning Los Angeles- and Seoul-based startup currently crowdfunding for their Arki personal walking coach. Arki`s claim is fairly audacious: it will teach you how to walk. Properly, at least. We walk every day, but bad walking posture is on the rise, thanks in part to our fixation on our smartphone screens, and bad walking posture can lead to a number of health consequences. Good walking posture has us walking tall, head up, swinging arms comfortably with an even and balanced stride, and Arki sets out to reform our bad habits and set us on the path to good.  A deceptively sleek and stylish wristband houses all the traditional fitness tracking features, as well as a six-point motion sensor and other specialised sensors that measure users` arm swing, heaviness of stride and more. Real-time feedback gives a reminder to walk well, and detailed data and personalised coaching comes courtesy of the Arki app. Arki`s mission appears to have captured consumers` attention, with the Kickstarter campaign [https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/862818642/arki-your-walking-coach] 76% funded a mere week into its run. Arki looks set to be an affordable investment in good health too, with basic packages starting at US$99.

MICA (www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/wearables/fashion-technology.html) Intel`s debut fashion collaboration (with style empire Opening Ceremony) is possibly the world`s most luxe wearable to date. Snakeskin accented with semi-precious stones and gold plating is sure to make this US$495 bracelet a must-have for "It Girls` the world over. Entirely a communication device, MICA (which stands for My Intelligent Communication Accessory) vibrates on receipt of a text message and serves up social media notifications on its curved sapphire glass screen. Interestingly, MICA operates entirely separately to your smartphone and comes with a unique phone number and two-year service contract. Contacts will need to decide whether to send text messages to MICA or to your phone, which could get confusing! However, for many style mavens MICA`s chic aesthetic and "Hot New Thing` status is sure to outweigh such considerations. MICA will be available in the US from early December; international launch plans are as yet unknown.

Gymwatch (www.gymwatch.com) Another iteration of the motion-sensing fitness wearable, Gymwatch ran a successful Indiegogo campaign earlier in 2014 for their armband sensor which tracks users` performance in gym-based exercises. Gymwatch aims to precisely measure not only the range of motion used in these exercises but the strength component, counting reps and detecting incorrect form. Real-time feedback comes via a paired smartphone app. Two sensors are recommended to track imbalances between the left and right sides or to track upper and lower body movements at once or in quick succession; with a retail of US$199 per sensor (not including band) this is likely to appeal only to the most serious and scientific of fitness enthusiasts. Gymwatch truly takes the idea of an electronic personal trainer to its high-tech extreme!

Apple Watch (www.apple.com/watch/apple-watch/) Technically, the Apple Watch is not actually a real, available commodity yet. But since its announcement in early September 2014, it`s been one of the most talked-about topics in wearable technology history. Release is scheduled for Spring 2015, and development of native apps for the Watch have just got underway. Apple Watch is of course designed to play especially well with later-model iDevices like the iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2, using the latest iteration of its operating system iOS 8. The Apple Watch is part communications device, part fitness tracker, and part fashion accessory and status symbol. It can make and receive calls and send and receive text messages on behalf of your larger iDevice, and a number of interesting and unique little features are planned to set the Apple Watch apart from the rest. Three versions of the Apple Watch will each be available in two sizes, including the 18ct gold and sapphire Apple Watch Edition, which is expected to be one pricey unit indeed. Early reviews are cautiously favourable, but there`s no doubt that the mystery and intrigue surrounding this item, the years of anticipation preceding it, and the simple fact that Apple fans are inclined to buy wholeheartedly into the brand ecosystem mean it will be a hot ticket item in a few short months. Prices beginning at US$349 are expected.

As you can see by this brief selection, wearable technology is a fast-evolving and diverse sector of the mobile hardware industry. Inventive designers and increased investment interest are converging to bring a wave of new advances for tech-savvy consumers, not to mention the potential for better health, productivity and communication. Are you on board?