3 Ways Wearable Technology Is Changing the World

The wearable-tech revolution is under way, and it's changing the way we interact with the world around us.

Apr 10, 2014 at 12:30PM

Wearable technology is all the rage these days. From people sporting Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Glass on their morning run to fitness bands that track their activity level, wearables are quickly growing into a multibillion-dollar market. Here are three ways wearable technology is already changing the way we live and interact with the world around us.

All eyes on medical devices
Wearable technology creates an opportunity to integrate the digital into the physical, and companies such as Google are demonstrating how this can improve our health in the process. Google kicked off 2014 by introducing a revolutionary contact lens that monitors a wearer's glucose levels. Using a tiny wireless chip and glucose sensor, Google's prototype can measure glucose levels in people with diabetes, thus creating a more efficient way of monitoring the disease.

In a blog post, Google said, "At Google[x], we wondered if miniaturized electronics -- think: chips and sensors so small they look like bits of glitter, and an antenna thinner than a human hair -- might be a way to crack the mystery of tear glucose and measure it with greater accuracy." The search giant is now working on a prototype that integrates miniature LED lights that would light up to warn the wearer that his or her glucose levels have "passed above or below certain thresholds."

While it will take some time for this technology to be ready for the market, it promises to forever change the way people and doctors deal with diabetes.

Palm scanners promise to transform the payment space
A smart technology called Biyo (formerly known as PulseWallet) lets consumers make payments by scanning the unique vein patterns in their hands. Once your palm is paired with your credit card, you simply hold your hand over one of these Biyo payment terminals and the credit card on file will be charged. The system is now available for businesses and costs $1,999 per terminal.

Screen Shot

Source: Biyo Wallet.

At this point, the technology is mostly used outside of the U.S. in markets such as Brazil and Italy, according to The Verge. Nevertheless, with a half-second response time, this palm recognition software could revolutionize the payments industry by letting consumers pay in stores with just the wave of their hand. What's more, the company's creators say this technology is more secure than other forms of electronic payment because it's unique to each specific customer.

While it could take some time for people to become comfortable sharing their unique vein pattern with merchants, this could be a welcome remedy for the various forms of credit card fraud that exist today -- ahem, Target. One thing is certain, wearable tech, along with smartphone devices, will play an increasingly important roll in shaping the payments industry.

Making mind control a reality
Wearable tech is also shaping the future through brain-powered headgear. This is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Today, companies such as Emotiv and InteraXon are creating mind-bending devices that actually let you execute basic smartphone commands using your mind. A person wearing InteraXon's Muse headband, for example, could adjust their phone's volume or brightness using only his or her thoughts.

Systems like these work with head-mounted electroencephalogram, or EEG, sensors that measure your brain's electrical activity. The Emotiv Insight headpiece is being used in a variety of ways today, including patient rehabilitation by allowing patients to control an electric wheelchair or type without physically using their hands. These may seem like simple tasks for the average person, but for someone with limited mobility, these types of brain-computer interfaces can be life changing.

Screen Shot

InterAxon's Muse device. Source: InterAxon.

Imagine the possibilities for this technology in the emerging Internet of Things realm -- think thought-activated home lighting. As these companies and others continue to unlock the full potential of this brain-sensor tech, we should see more breakthrough applications in everyday life.

Together, these are three key ways that wearable devices are changing the way we interact with the world around us. Looking ahead, wearables offer an exciting opportunity for consumers and investors. 

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Tamara Rutter has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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