The Next Big Thing In Tech Is Wearable Computing, And These Experts Will Tell You Why

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Hexoskin fitness trackerHexoskinThe Hexoskin shirt beams your fitness data to a smartphone or tablet.

I’m pretty pumped to host a panel on wearable technology at Business Insider’ IGNITION conference next week. As the biggest geek on the BI staff, I often get asked what the next cool gizmo is.

My panelists will have the answer when they take the stage with me on November 13.

Most agree that wearable technology — all those smart watches, fitness bands, and computerized glasses you’ve been seeing lately — are the next big thing. We’ve gone from room-sized computers to desktops to latops to smartphones and tablets. The next logical step in consumer tech is to integrate devices directly with our bodies.

One of my panelists is Pierre-Alexandre Fournier, the CEO of Hexoskin. Hexoskin makes fitness wear that can monitor your heartrate, breathing, steps taken, etc. All that data beams to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, giving you a snapshot of your health stats.

I had a quick chat with Fournier this week, and he had some really cool stuff to say about the wearable tech trend. Here’s an edited transcript of our conversation.

Business Insider: What is Hexoskin and how does it work?

Pierre-Alexandre Fournier: It’s a shirt with sensors in it, and it’s very simple. Just put on the shirt and connect it to a small device stored in a pocket. The device starts recording your stats and sends the data to your phone. It gives you very precise data about heart activity, breathing, and movement.

BI: What are the sensors like? Don’t they get in the way?

PF: When you look at the shirt from the outside, it looks like normal textile. There are no plastic parts or metal parts. We use connective textiles for the heart sensor. There are also two breathing sensors in the shirt, one at chest level and another at waist level. They measure breathing rate and breathing volume.

BI: How does the pack work?

PF: It connects to the shirt. The shirt is machine washable, including the connectors and sensors. Before you wash the shirt, you have to disconnect the separate pack. The pack contains the memory, processor, battery, and Bluetooth connection.

BI: Will it ever get to the point where you don’t need the pack?

PF: The technology isn’t there yet. It’ll be another two to three years before electronics are affordable enough to be integrated into the shirt.

BI: Where did you get the idea for Hexoskin?

PF: We started the project in 2006. We wanted to be able to get the information about our own health and get long-term data about it so we could recognise patterns.

But it took a few years before we started making sensors embedded in clothing. At some point we realised if we wanted large scale adoption, we needed to use objects already in people’s lives.

BI: Are wearables really the next big thing in tech?

PF: I think it’s going to be big. It’s the next logical step after mobile. You have watches and glasses that are an extension of the phone. They’re additional displays. These are devices that you are going to use to read the information. Then you’ll have devices that collect the information.

BI: So that means we’ll one day have to wear a bunch of different devices at once?

PF: I think it’s going to be very fragmented. There will be a very wide selection of products and devices that will end up talking to each other. It’s all going to work together. But it will be very fragmented. There are only a few smartphone models, but you don’t see everyone wearing the same pair of shoes. It’s going to be a lot more personal and have a lot of variety.

BI: What in the wearable tech space is the most exciting to you now?

PF: I really like when people innovate. I don’t know what will be a success or not, but I do like the idea behind Google Glass. I see many other interesting products too, like ingestible sensors.

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