Saturday, 27 September 2014

Wardrobe Wants - Technology

There are a LOT of great gadgets out there at the moment, not least in the wearable department, so I thought I'd compile a list. Because the only thing I love more than buying technological adornments for my person is making lists. WHO ARE YOU CALLING A LOSER?

No doubt about it, this is a sexy piece of tech. My current favourite wearable by miles, the Shine is sleek and simple. Although basically it is just another activity tracker, monitoring how much you eat, sleep, and exercise, the Shine's charm lies in its flawless design. Made out of solid aluminium it is small and light, but strong. You can find out how close you are to reaching your daily goals by tapping it and track your progress on your phone by placing the device on top of it. What really swings it for me is its stylistic versatility. It comes in a huge range of colours (my favourite is the wine red) and you can wear it as a necklace, a wristband, a watch, a brooch, or a clip. Fun fact: you can buy this in the shop at the London Science Museum. Friends and Family: hint hint...

The "Bloom" Necklace which you can clip your Shine into - NOT MY PHOTO

Soooo many colours! - NOT MY PHOTO

Or wear it as a kick-ass watch - NOT MY PHOTO

"NFC" stands for "Near Field Communication" which, essentially means, that as long as you have a device (or door) that is NFC enabled, you can do whatever you want with the mere swipe of a hand. Get an NFC enabled front door and you can swipe to unlock it. Same goes for your smartphone. You can also use the NFC ring to turn on wifi or Bluetooth, to share links or information, or to transfer whatever you want to your friends' tablets or smartphones. I love this mostly because of its simplicity. Like most of my favourite wearables, it doesn't try to be a miniature smartphone, it does a few key tasks well. The design is elegant but quirky, it never needs to be charged AND it is the most reasonably-priced at just £29.99. Gimme gimme. 

My favourite is the far-right, the "V1ntage" - NOT MY PHOTO

I've mentioned the "June" before here at Wardrobe and the World so I won't give you a long description now. Essentially, the "June" helps you measure and monitor your skin's exposure to the sun and sends you helpful tips on how best to stay sun-protected. Again, a very simple device that only tackles one problem. I also love the fact that something this sparkly is also practical.

Three colours to choose from  - NOT MY PHOTO


I mentioned the company Artefact in my last post because of their amazing device the "Dialog". While the "Purple" might be far less serious, it is no less fabulous. It is being advertised as "A Locket for the 21st Century". It works by connecting to various social media networks, such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as SMS. You preselect the most important people in your life and will be notified whenever those people send you picture messages or upload photos to their social media accounts. When this happens, the locket will light up but - thanks to the curved lid - this light will be visible only to you. On the screen inside the locket you can swipe through photos, like your favourites, and add certain ones to your "Keepsakes" library, which you can access at any time. There is also an accompanying app to help you manage all of this. This is a beautiful piece of jewellery with a purpose: keeping you close to those you love. A bit cheesy, when I put it like that, but something which appeals to me enormously nonetheless. You charge this by leaving it in a special ceramic charging bowl, which is something else I love. No need to plug this locket into your computer. It's not on the market yet, but I'll be keeping an eagle eye out for this baby. 


A modern-day locket - NOT MY PHOTO

Although in general I'm getting a wee bit bored of fitness wearables, I felt I ought to include the "Up", because it was probably the first wearable device I could actually see myself buying. It does all the normal things such as tracking your sleep, your exercise and activity, and what you eat, as well as having a smart alarm, which will buzz to remind you to get up and move when you've been sitting on your bum for too long. It also lets you input your mood each day and tries to find useful correlations to help you live happier and healthier. It's much sleeker and more elegant than some of its competitors and, although it still doesn't beat the "Shine" for me, it is cheaper and its design probably suits some people better. 

Colours galore! - NOT MY PHOTO

The Linou Notification Watch and Necklace

Now here's something a little different, Linou's gorgeous new devices are not only wearable, but sustainable, merging nature, technology, and fashion. Made out of wood, Linou's notification watch and necklace blend a relaxed aesthetic with a simple purpose: letting you know what's going on in your life, without you having to be constantly glued to your phone. The nifty little triangle in the centre of the necklace, and back of the watch strap, will glow a different colour based on what type of notification you are receiving. Available in three different woods (walnut, bamboo, and sandalwood) the necklace is definitely on my wish list. If you're as excited as I am, head on over to their Kickstarter page and donate! 


Donate $99 AUD (just over £50) and get the necklace at a special "Early Bird" price - NOT MY PHOTO

The "Ringly"

Last, but by no means least for my Wardrobe Wants is the Ringly notification ring. It does a very similar job to the Linou necklace above: when you get a notification (from your social networks, or an email/text/phonecall) a tiny light will light up in a particular colour, based on the notification, on the side, and the ring will vibrate slightly. Although it's a weeee bit out of my budget, I do LOVE the Ringly, mostly because it so Very wearable! It looks like a piece of jewellery, not just a gadget, which rids it of the unfortunate novelty factor many wearables attract. 


This would be the colour I went for. Just... in case anyone was interested... NOT MY PHOTO

SO, those are my Wearable Wardrobe Wants. Any questions about them, or any other wearables indeed, hit me up in the comments box. Now get off the internet and go enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Wearable Tech and Digital Healthcare

Before I begin, I must apologise for my longer-than-foreseen absence. I’ve been dragging my carcass the lengths and breadths of the country in search of gainful employment. Which I duly found, by the way.  Woot. Go me and my new capacity to earn and feed myself. Just like a real adult. Lol.

This week’s article will be continuing the series on Wearable Technology by looking at one of the key industries buying into wearables in a big way: the healthcare industry.

Fitness Wearables - NOT MY PHOTO

Early on, the wearables market was awash with gadgets designed around fitness  and wellbeing. Devices which could tell you how fast you’d run, or how far, how many calories you had consumed or burnt off. The very nature of wearable technology, its interaction with the body perhaps makes it unsurprising that wearable devices would soon branch out, past fitness, to our health.

There are devices which focus on basic things, such as the Netatmo June which measures your sun exposure. Created by a jewellery designer to look like a diamond, the facets of this device play with the rays of the sun and, with the help of a UV sensor, measure your skin’s exposure. The June then communicates this information to your smartphone which will send you handy tips such as “Hey mate, you should probably put a hat on about now” or “Oooh, look at that lovely patch of shade, that looks inviting”. Or, in my case, probably something along the lines of “Hey, Pasty Patsy, I reckon you’d be better off with SPF 1000”.*
*Note: it is highly possible that the writer of this blog has paraphrased the June’s tips. Please do not be disappointed if this device does not talk to you as if you were buds. 

The Netatmo "June" - NOT MY PHOTO

Then there are devices which centre on more specific health concerns, such as Artefact’s Dialog, designed for people with epilepsy. It is estimated that around 600,000 people in the UK suffer from epilepsy (that’s one in every 103). Currently, there are two ways that epilepsy is treated: wearable sensors which detect seizures and alert family members and journals where patients log their daily moods and medication. The Dialog goes one better and does both.

The Artefact "Dialog" - NOT MY PHOTO

Like a digital tattoo, the Dialog is worn directly on the skin, like a sticker. It has an e-ink screen and a variety of sensors which communicate with a smartphone. The sensors can track things such as hydration, temperature, pulse, and other biometrics AND, most importantly, the user can interact with it and input data themselves, swiping to log their mood or double tapping to indicate they feel  a seizure coming on. If the patient is having a seizure, they can grab the module with their whole hand, triggering a call for help. This interactive aspect adds a dimension that sensors could never access. Considering the data picked up by the sensors and the data input by the wearer together can help to lower a patient’s seizure threshold  and educates them on what exactly is going on in their bodies, and how that is making them feel.

The Artefact "Dialog" - NOT MY PHOTO

Another huge entry in the digital health market is Google’s smart lens. Currently working in partnership with the pharmaceutical giant Novartis, Google is developing a contact lens which promises to revolutionise the lives of those living with diabetes. The lens contains a low power microchip and an almost invisible electronic circuit which measures diabetics’ blood sugar levels from their tear fluid. This data is then sent to a mobile device, such as a smartphone.

Google's smart lens - NOT MY PHOTO

Novartis also plans to use this new eyewear technology to help people who are long-sighted. Using a similar technology to that used by a digital camera when it automatically focuses on an object, Novartis want to develop a contact lens which will autofocus on objects, essentially getting rid of the need for reading glasses. So very clever.

Also in the pipeline for the visually-impaired are a new pair of fancy smartshoes. There have been various concepts for smartshoes over the past few years, with brands such as Adidas and Nike developing shoes for athletes with integrated sensors, but they have never made it to the market. Indian company Ducere Technologies, however, are about to launch their product the Lechal (“Lay-chull”, which means “Take me along” in Hindi”), a navigation shoe which will be the very first of its kind.

The Lechal is connected via Bluetooth to Google maps on the user’s smartphone and gives directions by vibrating. It will also monitor statistics such as steps taken or distance walked. This device – which is being offered either as a shoe, or as an insole – promises to offer the user a sixth sense of sorts.

Ducere Technology's "Lechal" -  NOT MY PHOTO

What all of these devices have in common, is the potential to empower those who suffer from particular conditions and to liberate those who are merely health-conscious from constantly having to monitor their physical being and its interaction with their environment. This is one of the key reasons why wearable technology is set to have an enormous impact on the health industry, both short- and long-term. The digital healthcare market currently represents billions of dollars of potential revenue and so it is unsurprising that many major tech players are eager to expand into this area.


Wearables can be used by both doctors and patients; patients so that they can access information without having to consult a doctor, and doctors so they can keep an eye their patients when they’re not in the surgery. These new wearable devices can become monitors for both health and disease. They could be used in clinical trials for remote studies and to collect real-world data, as well as being a tool for medication adherence. Patients will now be more able to look after themselves, changing the relationship between them and their doctors, and giving doctors more time for other patients. Although currently these devices are mostly used to collect data and provide analysis, there is the belief that they will be able to help seek cures, improve outcomes, and – ultimately – be used as a preventative measure, to help people before they get sick.


Although it is true that health-focussed wearables pose some problems, in the form of long-term device maintenance, and people’s concerns over privacy, it is clear that in the long run they could lead to reduced costs and more personalised healthcare. If technology firms carry on along this route, we could be seeing remote consultations and operations, robotic treatments, and advanced digital diagnosis become standard parts of daily life.  Now wouldn’t that be something!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Wardrobe and the Woman 2 : Ada Lovelace

Hi all, happy 1st September! (I suppose this means that summer is officially finished... excellent.) As part of this Technology series, here at Wardrobe and the World, I am going to do a few special Wardrobe and the Women posts, celebrating some of technology's undersung heroines. This week is the turn of the lovely Ada Lovelace.

Ada Lovelace - NOT MY PHOTO

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace – better known as Ada Lovelace – was born in 1815 to the Romantic poet Lord Byron and his wife Annabella Milbanke, who separated shortly after Ada was born. It was not an amicable split, Annabella spent the rest of her life telling fearful tales about Byron’s dirty deeds, and would not let her daughter see even a portrait of him until her 20th birthday.

Ada Lovelace - NOT MY PHOTO

Annabella loved mathematics and raised Ada on a strict diet of science, maths, and logic, in the hope that she might not inherit her father’s dangerous “poetic” temperament. This seemed to work and from an early age Ada had an aptitude for maths and a fascination with machines. When she was 12, Ada decided she wanted to fly and set about designing a flying machine, studying various materials, and birds’ wing spans, and trying to figure out whether she could power her machine with steam. She compiled her findings in a book called Flyology. Not your average pre-teen.

Mary Sommerville - NOT MY PHOTO

Her mentor was scientist and polymath Mary Somerville who introduced her to Charles Babbage, the famous mathematician, inventor, and mechanical engineer. She and Babbage became lifelong friends (he nicknamed her “Lady Fairy” and “The Enchantress of Numbers”) and it was through him, and his Analytical Engine, that Ada achieved lasting fame. Babbage’s Analytical Engine – although it was never built – had all the elements of a modern computer. In 1842, Ada translated an article from French about the device, expanding on it and adding her own observations. This article was simply called Notes and contains several early “computer programs” as well as Lovelace’s own remarks as to the future potential of the machine.

Charles Babbage - NOT MY PHOTO

Due to the elaborate and complete nature of Ada’s programs, and the fact that they are the first to ever be published, she is often known as the “first computer programmer”. Her notes contain the first algorithm ever intended to be carried out by a machine, but Ada’s vision of the potential for this early computer went far beyond number-crunching.

Trial Analytical Engine - NOT MY PHOTO

Despite her mother’s best efforts, Ada had indeed picked up some of her father’s “poetic” nature. She would often question basic assumptions about the world using both her intuition and her imagination, both poetry and science. She called her approach (rather aptly) “poetical science”, referring to herself as an “Analyst and Metaphysician”. This “poetical science” mindset led her to ask basic questions about the Analytical Engine, to explore the ways in which people interact and relate to technology as a tool. Her Notes became one of the critical documents to inspire Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 40s.

Alan Turing - NOT MY PHOTO

Throughout the 1840s, Ada was never far away from a scandal. Rumours of affairs were started due to her relaxed relationships with men who were not her husband and she loved to gamble. Even after her death she has caused controversy, with many disputing how much Ada actually contributed, and to what extent she was merely developing Babbage’s own ideas.

The Ada Initiative - NOT MY PHOTO

Whatever the truth of the matter may be, Ada Lovelace is widely accepted as a key figure in the development of the modern computer and has come to be the figurehead for many projects and institutions which support and choose to promote women in technology. For example, there is the Ada Initiative which aims to get more women involved in the free culture movement and open source technology, or the computer language “Ada” which was named after her and created on behalf of the US Department of Defense. Every October there is an “Ada Lovelace Day” whose goal is to “raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering and maths."(For those who are interested, this year it is on October 14th). An “Ada Collection” of underwear has even been designed by the company “Dear Kate”, whose advertising campaign shows a number of female tech CEOs displaying the range.


I wonder what Byron would have thought of that...