Line up the current generation of wearable sensors, and you will see a range of unnecessary accessories, which the user must put on every day in order to stay connected. But this surely won’t remain the case for long. Tomorrow’s data will be gathered from everyday items with embedded processors, or from something as inconspicuous as a sticker. Now, the latter concept is about to become a reality. Let me introduce you to Estimote’s Nearables.
Following on from Estimote’s larger Beacon sensors, the 3mm-thin Nearables have been designed to attach to, and monitor, virtually anything. Although their outward appearance — unusual shape, bright colors, and all — suggests these stickers are meant for kids, they are actually very high tech. Each Nearable houses a ARM processor, which manages the incoming information from the in-built temperature and motion sensors, and sends it off to somewhere useful using Bluetooth. The whole thing is powered by a coin battery, which will keep going for around a year, and the range is 70 meters.
Impressive, certainly, but what can it do? The combination of temperature and motion data seems limiting, but with the addition of Bluetooth, it actually becomes quite useful. For instance, a Nearable is capable of providing Duet-like alerts when it, and anything it is attached to, is being left behind. Alternatively, with one stuck on to your bike, you will be alerted if it is moved without your permission, and notified if temperatures dip low enough to make your route icy.
These are just obvious, standalone examples, though. The true potential of the sensors will only be unlocked when developers start to work with Estimote’s API, and feed the collected data in to their own applications.
You can already pre-order Nearables (shipping will start in October) from Estimote’s website; an investment of $99 gets you 10 stickers plus the development kit, and a further $99 will get you a pack of three Beacons to complete the full system. But as the price of microprocessors continues to tumble, so will the price of Estimote’s products, and then, sticking a sensor on everything you own might start to become a realistic proposition.