Wearable Tech World Feature Article
December 12, 2014

Biometrics: A Major Part of Wearable Technology

For most people, thinking of “biometrics” usually brings thoughts of security products into mind. Thoughts of wearable technology, meanwhile, commonly don't bring biometrics into the picture at all. However, as Valencell recently discovered, there's been quite a demand for biometrics technology of late, and a lot of that demand is coming from the wearable technology sector and in some unexpected ways.

Valencell is particularly well-placed to note this demand, being as it's one of the biggest names in biometric data sensor systems out there. Valencell's licensees, meanwhile, are experiencing that demand as well, and attempting to supply the relevant products. But what Valencell particularly noticed was that, while there was plenty of demand coming from the usual suspects, so to speak—the fitness and healthcare sectors—there was also demand coming from somewhat more unlikely sources, like first responders and military systems. Then gaming systems got involved, and that only ratcheted up the unusual nature of the demand.

Valencell's president, Dr. Steven LeBoeuf, offered up some comment on this issue, noting that wearables were only as useful as the biometric data delivered. This isn't always the case, of course, but in markets where it's important to know a user's temperature or heart rate or pulse—like the fitness, healthcare, military and gaming markets—the best in biometrics is going to be vital to ensure that that data is not only properly captured, but able to be properly used as well.

That's led to some big gains for Valencell, who saw a 300 percent increase in its licensing partners in 2014, thanks in large part to its PerformTek biometric sensor, which represents—as Dr. LeBoeuf describes—“the only clinically-validated optomechanical sensor technology that has been proven to deliver highly accurate, continuous heart rate monitoring and other key metrics vital to tracking performance.” The value of such a system is clear; not only has a Nielsen Connected Life report suggested that 70 percent of respondents believe accuracy to be a “preferred feature” of wearable devices, but major companies like Intel and Jabra have turned to Valencell specifically for the PerformTek technology for use in wearable devices.

The applications, meanwhile, are comparatively clear. Indeed, a wearable device that involves biometric measuring is really only useful when it's accurate; no one wants a pulse measuring system that insists the user's heart rate is constantly 20 beats more than it actually is. Accuracy in measurement is very important in terms of application, so without that accuracy, the information that results really can't be put to use. If the information can't be put to use, then there's really no point in gathering it in the first place; actionable information is vital to just about any process, and wearable technology is no exception. While there are some out there, like a recent report from IDC noted, that believe that wearable technology won't do well in 2015, improvements in accuracy and measuring capability certainly won't hurt companies' odds of success in this field.

It will be interesting to see if other biometric makers challenge Valencell's thrust into these markets on the strength of accuracy that can be generated, but for right now, many companies look to be turning to Valencell first off, and that's going to reshape a large portion of both the wearable technology market and the biometrics market as we know these today.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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