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3 best wearable tech brands pushing the boundaries of smart healthcare

As wearables become an integral part of consumers' daily lives right now in South Africa, empowering them to lead healthier and more informed lifestyles, we take a look at three smart wearable tech brands pushing the boundaries of smart healthcare with admirably innovative products globally.

A growing number of tech companies – and fashion brands – are operating in the smart health wearable market.

While there’s been a growing interest from more companies looking to tab into this lucrative, ever-evolving industry and get a piece of the pie, in this article we unpack three tech brands leading the wearable healthcare market with incredibly inspiring and meaningful innovations.

Medically certified Huawei Smart Watches

Huawei smart wearables have come a long since the launch of its first proprietary heart rate monitoring technology, TruSeen in 2016. This groundbreaking technology has seen five generations of upgrades in just eight years, showcasing the tech brand’s relentless pursuit of excellence.

This year (2024), the Chinese tech giant is further pushing the boundaries of what’s possible as it seeks to conquer three industry challenges: sleep, blood pressure, and mental health management – all which are associated with increased cases of cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) worldwide, with the South African Heart Association naming it as the leading cause of death and disability after HIV/Aids.

As it’s been the case with several cutting-edge wearables from major top brands over the years, groundbreaking products like the Huawei Watch 4 Series, equipped with quintessential biotech features such as the Health Glance (which tracks multiple key indicators all at once, including heart rate, oxygen saturation and stress), as well as the latest TruSeen (5.5+ health) indicator on the Watch GT 4 line, play a pivotal role in effective management of CVD.

Hoping to become a go-to platform for comprehensive health management solutions for health-conscious customers, the company has received heaps of praise and positive customer reviews for the Huawei Watch D, which comes with a pioneering high-precision pressure sensor, with meticulous pressure feedback controls and timely reminders.

Huawei Watch D comes with the medically approved ECG detection feature to record heart’s rhythm.

The watch has a built-in mini pump, which according to Huawei it’s capable of pumping up to 49 kilopascals (kPa) of blood pressure. Unlike other brands that utilise embedded IR sensors to perform this function, Huawei Watch D has a ‘real’ wrist-sized, blood-pressure cuff; the small pump connects to a ‘bladder’, an inflatable dual-layer airbag in the watchband that can be fully pumped.

So amazing is this intriguing wearable that it got the European approval for its use as a health device several months upon its release; the device’s electrocardiogram (ECG) function now has Class II medical device certification by FDA – to record heart’s rhythm and electrical activity. This means users can be assured that the information they are getting from their wearable device is reasonably accurate.

Taking things up a notch, Huawei just announced a refreshed Stay Fit app, which provides users with comprehensive calorie control and weight management support among other things.

Life changing tech innovations such as these are certainly a step in the right direction for the Shenzhen-based company, which this week said its profits more than doubled in 2023, generating a net profit of 87 billion yuan ($12 billion); a prove that it’s rebounding after years of US sanctions crippled some of its business lines.

Honor Earbuds 3 Pro: World's 1st TWS earbuds with 5C fast charging case 

They may look outdated, but Honor Magic 3 Pro earbuds have been under our radar for quite a while ever since being announced as the winner of  the ‘Best of MWC’ award from top music media Billboard back in 2023. This recognition was a bit unexpected given that the Chinese handset maker – that spun out of telecom giant Huawei – was still a relative new player after only arriving in South Africa in 2018, five years after its European debut. 

It’s this kind of accomplishment that got us a bit curious here at NOWinSA and eager to want to look into what the brand has been up to locally overall – this in the backdrop of the much-anticipated release of the Honor Magic V2 in South Africa. Interestingly, this was a dual award, with it shared with its smartphone cousin, the Honor Magic Pro 4 Pro – which is said to work like a charm when paired together.

So what’s the fuss all about? It happened that Honor Earbuds 3 Pro is the world’s first earbuds with TWS AI temperature monitoring technology feature, which intelligently tracks and monitors users’ data with built-in sensors and AI algorithm.

This is a God-sent feature for users who are health-conscious, and it comes in handy post pandemic era with temperature monitoring now becoming a norm.

Honor Earbuds 3 Pro is the world’s first earbuds with TWS AI temperature monitoring technology feature, which intelligently tracks and monitors users’ data.
The feature can be utilised outdoors to provide real-time temperature readings.

To add to that, the slick earbuds are fitted with the world’s first 5C Fast charging, reportedly delivering 2 hours of music playback for just 5 minutes charge, as well as a standby time of up to 36 hours without the charging case.

Users can expect up to 65% charge in just 10 minutes. Additionally, users can recharge their charging case wirelessly with Honor Magic4 Pro. With a feature reminiscent with the Samsung Galaxy PowerShare (which debuted on the S10 series to charge other devices such as the Watch 4 wirelessly – which we previously tested on the Samsung S20+ Ultra, Honor Earbuds 3 Pro users can additionally recharge their charging case wirelessly with HONOR Magic4 Pro.

Apart from delivering impressive sound quality experience, this means users can get right back to immersing in their favourite tunes in a blink of an eye.

Smart clothing: Hexoskin leading medical wearable tech

Smart clothing, aka intelligent fashion, has been gaining wide popularity in recent years. One good example was the Levi’s smart jacket, made with Google’s Project Jacquard technology.

The world-famous American streetwear brand (Levi’s) partnered with the search engine empire to create unique innovative clothing items that enable the wearer to answer calls, play music or take photos right from their sleeves, and even alert them of weight gain. 

Google’s Project Jacquard technology allowed digital tasks such as navigation, communication, and music playing with a few swipes or taps on the sleeve – of Levi’s smart jacket.

This was done by weaving conductive threads into clothes to create touch-sensitive panels. When touched, the electric threads send signals to a computer that translates the movements of the user into controls, allowing parts of garments to be used as an interface for Android and iOS devices.

In recent years, however, fashion designers have been experimenting and pushing the limits of what wearability means through the Internet of Things (IoT). Through this, a Montreal company (CarrĂ© Technologies) has developed a specialised line of clothing called Hexoskin that helps elite athletes and astronauts perform at their peak – as they look for way they can share informative health-care data, and increased efficiency and productivity in the process.

The company also manufacture socks that count steps and calories among other things, as well as clothing that allow precise ECG cardiac monitoring with continuous lung function and activity tracking, as well as sleep and heart rate variability.

Hexoskin clothing allows precise ECG cardiac monitoring with continuous activity tracking.

The data collected is in turn handed over to medical researchers and clinicians to investigate, most notably people severely affected by Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME/CF) due to limited capacity to participate in clinical studies. The data, accessible through the company software programs Hexoskin OneView, can also be used by professionals in healthcare, sports science and human performance – or any other field – looking to leverage the full potential of medical wearables.

It’s this kind of groundbreaking innovations from the leading biotech giant that has seen CEO Pierre-Alexandre Fournier invited by the American Telemedicine Association as one of the key speakers at the ATA Nexus 2024 conference this May 5 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Helping usher in a new era of biotech, Fournier will talk about today’s use cases for medical wearables in telemedicine, with examples from over 10 years of experience in working with patients and professionals, answering clinical questions using data from wearables and mobile devices.

Other companies integrating technology in fashion making

In addition to Hexoskin, a good number of exemplary companies have successfully integrated technology in fashion making, albeit a brief period. Among these is Pizza Hut, which experimented with limited-edition tech sneakers that can order pizza.

Under Armour’s Athlete Recovery Sleepwear, which absorbed heat from the wearer’s body while releasing infrared light to increase sleep quality and improve muscle recovery is another good example. Not to mention the much talked about Ralph Lauren’s PoloTech t-shirts, which connected to a smartphone app to record fitness activity and recommend new workouts to consumers. What with Tommy Hilfiger casual garments, which were embedded with a technology to track product usage and reward customers for time spent wearing them.

The list is endless, proving that smart clothing is indeed a way to go, with several intelligence reports – as captured by Statista – predicting that the sector will reach an annual size of more than 5 billion US dollars by 2024 or 2027.

Tankiso Komane
Tankiso Komane
A Tshwane University of Technology journalism graduate, Tankiso Komane has a vast experience in print & broadcast media business and has worked for some of the country’s biggest daily newspapers, including The Sowetan, The Citizen, The Times, and The New Age. Through her varied work as a journalist, notably as a copywriter for SABC1 (On-Air promotions) and as a publicist for Onyx Communications, she has developed an in-depth understanding of the nature of the media business and how to use it for the purpose of exposure. Her expertise in journalism across various disciplines, coupled with a good reputation, has laid the foundation of a new kind "trust in Journalism" as the media ecosystem continues to digitally evolve.
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