Wearable devices. What are these?


So-called wearable technologies are becoming increasingly popular. This concept, however, came to us from the West. Therefore, you can find some inconsistencies in Russia when trying to explain what is meant by a “wearable device”. It seems that a couple of words are missing in such a name for the full picture. In this article we have tried to ascertain what wearable devices are and how this concept is interpreted abroad and in the Russian Federation.

The concept of a wearable device in Russia and abroad

Definition used abroad

In 2016, the European Commission proposed its own definition for the concept of smart wearables (wearable technology, wearables, fashion technology, smartwear, tech togs, streetwear tech, skin electronics or fashion electronics):

Smart wearable devices are body-borne computational and sensory devices that can record any information from the wearer and/or wearer’s environment. Wearable devices can interact with each other directly either wirelessly or through another device (such as a smart phone). The data collected by a wearable device about the user or user’s environment is processed in a processor situated locally or on an external server. The results are eventually provided to the user. Smart wearable devices may have control, communication and data storage functions.

The Tenth Strategy Group of the Standardization Board of the International Electrotechnical Committee (IEC) identified several categories of smart wearable devices:

  • Near-body electronics (electronics fixed close to the body);
  • On-body electronics (electronics fixed directly on the body/skin);
  • In-body electronics (implantable electronics);
  • Electronic textile (textiles with integrated electronics);

In addition, in 2019, the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) developed a concept model for the area of smart wearable devices. According to their definition,

a wearable device can contain several types of sensors integrated as a system in a module. Sensors capture the user’s physiological processes or data from the environment. The wearable device processes this information and acts on the user (e.g., it displays some visual content, plays some audio content, sends an alert, provides forced feedback). The user may interact with the wearable device through verbal commands or through a data processing unit. The wearable can also communicate an aggregated set of sensed information and receive data to/from the processing unit.

Wearable devices may allow the user to track time, distance, pace of movement and calories burned using a set of sensors in clothing.

One example of wearable devices are smart glasses with displays which have a gesture recognition function for control. A classic example of an implantable wearable device is a pacemaker or a smart patch to monitor heart rate, the document claims.

The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in the article A review of wearable technology in medicine gives the following definition of a wearable device:

A wearable device is any wearable compact device that provides information to users and provides interaction with the user either through a voice command or through physical input/output functions. The devices are often “accessories” and have a wide range of medical applications ranging from simple fitness support to complex devices used in surgery.

Also, the authors conditionally divide wearable devices into

  • head-mounted displays;
  • body-worn sensors.

They define a body-worn sensor as any wearable portable device capable of detecting or recording any physiological data of the human body, while head-mounted displays are visual devices that can be operated hands-free.

A similar definition is given in the article A Survey of Wearable Devices and Challenges. However, its authors analyse wearables in more detail and create their own classification of wearable devices that we will analyse later.

Definition in the Russian Federation

Russian authors interpret the concept of wearable devices as

electronic devices which are often both garments or accessories and devices which can also be directly implanted into the human body. Also in the Russian literature, wearables are sometimes called wearable computers or wearable microelectronic devices (WMD).

Sometimes articles explicitly state that wearable devices are a category of devices that includes wrist-worn fitness bands and trackers, smart watches, as well as virtual or augmented reality glasses, etc. It is clear that these devices often function in conjunction with smartphones and communicators.

Thus, although there is no official terminology for the concept of a wearable device in the Russian Federation, an idea of what this means is gradually being formed. However, articles often talk about wearable devices as accessories and decorations, which is not a mandatory characteristic criterion for a wearable device.

In Runet (content of websites that is available for Russian users without foreign language skills), you can also find the following properties to which a wearable device supposedly should correspond:

  1. Most of the devices are subscribers to the Internet of Things and should have an Internet connection;
  2. The device can analyse the state of the body and/or the environment and interact with it;
  3. Wearable devices combine the features of a gadget and an accessory. The wearable device becomes part of the image and implements additional decorative functions.

However, according to a foreign definition, this list of criteria is incomplete, which is why many Russian-speaking people may not define a wearable device in the same way as, for example, Americans. After all, the Russian definition does not take into account the range of wearable devices that require medical intervention for their use, such as implantable wearable devices and prostheses, injection systems or smart devices taken orally (smart medicines).


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Text: Anthony Belokopytov


e-mail: anton.belokopytov@beawire.com