VIDEO: Wearables in focus at Mobile World event

After the flurry of phone and tablet launches that marked the opening day of Mobile World Congress (MWC), attention turned to wearable technology and 5G.

VIDEO: Wearables in focus at Mobile World event

Fifth-generation mobile networks, or 5G, dominated much of exhibitors’ priorities and attendees’ attention as the future of connected devices was outlined by various industry heavyweights.

One notable detractor of the race to 5G, which many predict will be launched within the next four years, was Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who poured cold water on the industry’s obsession with ever-faster connectivity at a time when billions of people have no internet access at all.

He said extending internet connectivity to the 4bn people denied it should be the industry’s priority before the advent of 5G, which he described as “faster connections for rich people”.

For all his clout, however, that call is likely to fall on deaf ears as the industry forges ahead with its next generation connectivity which, it is hoped, will further enable smart devices to communicate with one another as part of the next wave of technology. Part of that evolution will be the continued expansion of wearable technology.

We’ve already become accustomed to the notion of smartwatches and wearable fitness gadgets, but companies are increasingly fusing technology with fashion to evolve those products, as well as developing others.

Intel, for instance, has teamed up with watchmaker Tag Heuer to develop Tag Heuer Connected. The $1,500 (€1,360) smartwatch was front and centre at Intel’s MWC stand, with staff eager to showcase its range of functions which include weather, news and traffic updates; movement and distance tracking; and a music player.

The California chip-maker has also played around with embedding technology in dresses and even sports bras that help regulate temperature. The “adrenaline dress” it developed alongside fashion designer Chromat, responds to sensors which tell when the wearer’s adrenaline is running high and “expands to create an imposing figure”, according to Chromat founder Becca McCharen.

Almost every major player at the event is touting its latest wearables, from Samsung to Garmin and Chinese company ZTE. ZTE’s Android-powered Axon Watch, which includes a compass, barometer, and GPS functionality is one of the lesser known offerings to have slipped under the industry’s radar until this week.

The Chinese manufacturer brought its full range of wearable technology to the showcase event, including Fitbit-like health products and a dedicated Sport Watch that can make and receive calls, track your sleep and double as a camera.

In a step outside of the wearable mainstream, it also showed off its charm bracelets, rings, and necklaces — all of which come with varying degrees of embedded technology.

The cringe-inducingly named “Shining Babe” necklace, for instance, can send an SOS message along with the wearer’s location to a specified person, if needed, while also being able to snap selfies with no more than a simple gesture.

Sports glasses also featured prominently with Intel and Garmin among the firms moving into this sphere. Aimed at athletes such as long-distance runners or cyclists, the sunglasses display key information such as distance covered and the speed at which the athlete is travelling .

Powered by the same Intel Curie technology behind the “adrenaline dress”, the Californian company has also partnered with BMX to build the first BMX smart bike which measures speed and movement and offers feedback to riders to improve their performance.

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