Nov 102014
 
Smart Phin by Board Formula - via Wired.com

Smart Phin by Board Formula – via Wired.com

The best way to collect data in difficult locations is to use an adrenaline junkie to gather it for you. The Smart Phin can help surfers collect valuable data about the water they surf for researchers in order to understand more about our oceans.

Benjamin Thompson from Board Formula, the small company behind the Smart Phin, wants to involve surfers in collecting important data for scientific research. The Smart Phin attaches to any surfboard and comes with an smartphone app to upload data. Thompson eventually wants to start selling Smart Phins and has decided to keep the companion app open source, so developers can come up with their own apps that work with the fin.

Like the wearable technology health care researchers are currently adapting to monitor patients’ movements and vital signs, the Smart Phin acts as diagnostic technology, only for the ocean instead of the “wearer” (Quinn, 99). Much like more traditional wearable tech, the Smart Phin collects and measures information; Not only does it note the surfer’s location and time, the Smart Phin also logs the temperature, pH levels, and salinity of the ocean. The information is then uploaded via Bluetooth to a smartphone app, once the surfer hits dry land again. The more sensors in the water, the more points of data for scientists. Similar technology could also eventually be applied to wetsuits or diving equipment for information gathering at greater depths.

Crowdsourcing data collection via the Smart Phin could be a boon for marine scientists by helping to measure how climate change affects the world’s oceans.

Sources:

The Next Big Thing You Missed: Surfboard Collects Oceanic Data While You Ride Waves

Riding Massive Waves Could Fight Climate Change

Board Formula

Quinn, Bradley. “Vital Signs.” Textile Futures: Fashion, Design and Technology. Oxford: Berg, 2010. 85-107.

Oct 132014
 

By: Thomas Hall

A better-performing you? “It’s as easy as putting on a shirt!”

The female and male variants of Hexoskin, shown with compatible Android and iOS devices. (Linked to Hexoskin.com)

The Hexoskin, a plain, black shirt, is actually a lightweight, all-encompassing fitness tracker for extreme athletics and everyday activities alike. Hexoskin has been in development since 2006, when a Montreal design duo came up with the idea to streamline the existing method of invasive and uncomfortable physical trackers. Their design was so tantalizing to aerospace use that the Canadian Space Agency has been working closely to fund and test the product since its conception. They plan to send the shirts to the International Space Station in coming years for use by astronauts.

How forward-thinking is Hexoskin? A Bluetooth transmitter slipped into a pocket of the shirt connects to your device of choice, and beams information such as heart rate, lung capacity, oxygen levels, and sleep patterns, all in real time. The most high-profile uses thus far have been by the 2014 Spartan Race World Champion, the Canadian Olympic skiing team, and by polar researchers for the Canadian Space Agency. Those with conditions such as cardiac defects can wear the shirt to monitor their activity for any dangerous deviations. The only option previously was to wear sticky sensors beleaguered with wires until enough data was recovered.

Possibly the  biggest boon to Hexoskin is that it is an Open Data device, meaning that any developer, or user, can pull the sensors’ readings into whatever platform they wish. This philosophy of openness has really taken off in recent tech products, from Fitbit, to Android Wear, to Apple’s Health app and smart watch. The Hexoskin technology has already been licensed to clothing manufacturers, in the hopes that popular name brands can bring down the hefty $399 price tag, as well as create buzz in pop culture.

The team claims that products like Hexoskin are key to “preventative medicine,” much like the dozens of sensors in your car are key to preventative maintenance. If wearable technology and the Quantified Self movement seemed like a fad in recent years, then that stigma is quickly dissipating. According to Nielsen, 15% of the population is trying on wearable technology, and over half of those early adoptions are fitness bands. So what is stopping a majority of the population from grabbing the best, or cheapest, or most colorful fitness tracker from the nearest shelf? The answer seems to be that the intersection of technology and fashion simply isn’t where it needs to be for wide adoption. Designers can only be free to make something truly usable and artistic when “not directed by marketing demands or production methods,” and the smallness, lightness, and excellent battery life of today’s cutting edge tech is only just beginning to become usable by fashion designers (Bradley Quinn, Cybercouture). With its minimalist design, loaded feature set, and lack of visual cues that scream “nerd,” Hexoskin is a chance for technology and quantified health to break into the most worn of all wearables: clothing.

 

Sources:

http://goo.gl/MJvkdl (Nielsen)

http://goo.gl/iQujaT (Forbes)

http://goo.gl/EEUTSB (Hexoskin)

http://goo.gl/BXxcpU (Quinn)