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Accessories that buzz when the email you've been waiting for lands in your inbox. Devices that help you sleep more soundly. Gadgets that photograph and document your day, start to finish. Meet the latest innovations in the rapidly growing -- and lucrative -- industry of wearable tech.
Research company Visiongain predicts that the global wearable tech market will reach $4.6 billion this year. "With virtually limitless applications to a number of verticals, the wearable technology market represents a huge value proposition to all ecosystem members, from manufacturers to app developers and service report providers," the company's recent research report stated.
Among the verticals pouncing on the trend, the healthcare industry has rolled out a number of promising remote patient monitoring technologies, such as a bracelet that monitors a patient's vitals, a device that determines the severity of a person's sleep apnea and a wireless sensor that monitors fetal and maternal heart rates.
The fitness industry has also embraced the wearable tech trend, introducing the popular Fitbit and Nike's FuelBand, both of which analyze your daily activity and track your weight. Jawbone, a wristband gadget, tracks how you sleep, exercise and eat.
But Google Glass and the emerging crop of smartwatches have generated the most buzz for wearable tech. The general public still can't buy Google Glass, augmented reality glasses that the company began testing in April 2012. But developers have rolled out a number of apps, including Path and Evernote integration.
The Smartwatch buzz began in February when rumors swirled that Apple had an iWatch in the works. Though Apple has yet to deliver, the company is reportedly "aggressively" hiring engineers. Critics have questioned whether a viable market for smartwatches exists, but that hasn't stopped manufacturers like Samsung from jumping in with early products.
My InformationWeek colleague Tom Claburn recently made the case that smartwatches aren't so smart. We need wearable devices, but not smartwatches, Claburn argues. "What we should have for our wrists is a networked sensor band," he wrote. Several of the wristband products explored here would fit into that vision. (Claburn is also an early tester of Google Glass; read his Google Glass first impressions.)
Dig into our slideshow to look at eight innovative new wearable gadgets from a variety of industries. Then use the comment section to vote for your favorites -- or tell us what sounds unappealing.
Fitness buffs know how tricky it is to read a book while clocking miles on the treadmill. Weartrons, a group of New York-based developers, tackled this problem with a gadget called Run-n-Read.
The small device clips to your headband or shirt collar to monitor your bouncing head or shoulder movements. It transmits this information to your e-reader, mobile phone or tablet via Bluetooth to sync the text your reading with your bouncing body's movements. No need to worry about turning pages, either: Tap the device once to move forward a page and twice to move backward. The device also doubles as a fitness tracker. Early adopters can purchase this product on the company's fundraising site for $55 in advance of its December release.
The new iPhone 5s may use fingerprint technology for security, but Nymi's wristband confirms your identity through electrocardiogram sensors that monitor the pattern of your heartbeat. Nymi works when you place a finger on the topside sensor while your wrist is in contact with the bottom sensor, completing an electrical circuit. When you feel a vibration and see the LEDs illuminate, the gadget knows who you are and your devices -- such as your smartphone, computer and car -- know to authenticate you when you're nearby. Nymi is expected to ship in early 2014; you can preorder the device for $79 or wait for the next batch for $99.
If you're constantly glued to your phone, worried that you'll miss an important email or call, the Embrace+ device aims to let you put your phone down. The bracelet's mobile app lets you set colors and vibrations for alerts such as incoming calls, texts, emails, Facebook messages, Skype calls and birthdays, and will glow the chosen color and buzz to alert you. You can preorder Embrace+ for $69.
You probably don't think much about your socks, but Heapsylon does. The company's smart socks let you know when you're too sedentary, when your walking or running form breaks down, and how you're doing on your fitness goals.
The sensor-filled socks send pressure data to an ankle device, which uploads data wirelessly through your computer or smartphone. Features include a cadence metronome, a foot-landing gauge, a stride analyzer and social sharing. You can preorder the anklet, app and pair of socks for $149.
Memoto's Lifelogging Camera can record everyday moments -- and we do mean every day. The small, 5-megapixel camera clips to your clothing and takes two geotagged photos every minute of every day, as long as you're wearing the device. Its app works together with the camera to organize your photos chronologically so you can later search them all based on time, place and light. The battery lasts approximately two days and can be recharged through your computer. Preorder Memoto for $279. Got a relative who already bombards you with cute pet pics? This gadget could bring over-sharing to a whole new level.
If you've picked up some poor posture habits at work, LUMOback aims to correct them. Wear this waistband around your midsection and wait for a vibration that notifies you when you're slouching. When synced with your compatible iOS device, LUMOback keeps track of your daily activities, too, such as the number of steps you take, how long you sit, calories burned and sleep habits. LUMOback is available today for $149.95.
If you're an early riser and your significant other is a light sleeper, he or she may thank you for this gadget. The Lark Pro wristband silently wakes you by vibrating. The device, which pairs via Bluetooth to a mobile app, includes snooze settings, a backup alarm and sleep tracking. As it collects more information about your sleeping patterns, the app also helps you generate an action plan to sleep better and set sleep targets. Lark Pro is available today for $159.
While Apple is waiting on smartwatches, Samsung announced the Galaxy Gear device in early September. The smartwatch features a 1.9-megapixel camera and a speakerphone, comes in a variety of colors, and shoots 720p HD video. AT&T will ship the device Oct. 1, and you can preorder it now for $299.