The internet of things is slowly transforming the world around us into a connected ecosystem. This is changing how we interact with everyday objects and how we measure our health and fitness. When we think of fitness trackers, we usually picture a Fitbit or Garmin style wrist based device or an Apple smartwatch. But there are other, more innovative, options out there.
Essential reading: Moving away from the wrist – the best smart clothing
If you have been asking yourself – “Where is my connected hat?” – today is your lucky day. We’ve rounded up a few options for you to choose from. In the market of fitness trackers and heart rate monitors, these are the products that sit on top. And no, we’re not talking about smart bike helmets or biometric headphones.
Connected hats and fitness head gear – niche or novelty? You be the judge.
Wrist based heart rate wearables have become a dime a dozen. But while these types of sensors have improved, their accuracy remains questionable, particularly at high-intensity activity.
Moov is a company which has consistently taken an innovative approach to activity tracking. Its range of devices use advanced motion tracking in 3D space to monitor body movements and provide real-time audio coaching. Moov’s third generation wearables takes this a step further by throwing an optical heart rate sensor into the mix.
The core unit is embedded in a sweatband (Moov HR) or a swim cap (Moov HR Swim) to get what Moov says is a more accurate pulse reading than from your wrist or chest. The information is relayed to the smartphone app which provides real time feedback and coaching based on your heart rate. Simply follow the voice coaching to stay in the correct heart rate zone when training.
Initially developed to monitor vital signs of pilots and astronauts, LifeBEAM has in recent years made its technology available to the rest of the world in the form of a smart hat.
The connected garment dishes out data on heart rate, steps, cadence and calorie consumption, which it then transmits via Bluetooth to your favourite smartphone app or fitness watch. LifeBEAM connects with most mobile apps, running watches and computers.
The long lasting 17 hour battery life allows you to stay charged longer and focus on your training. Its also all weather compatible, so you can take it with you come rain or shine.
LifeBEAM also sells a smart visor for women (Amazon). Exactly the same technology in a different form factor.
Smart Cap looks like an ordinary baseball cap, but contains integrated sensors that continually monitor the wearer’s brainwaves.
The wearable is capable of reading electrical brain activity (EEG) and processing that information in real time. Everything is then communicated via Bluetooth to an in-cab display.
The head-gear is used to determine the level of impairment of the wearer due to fatigue, thus reducing the risk of accidents. It is particularly useful as a monitoring tool for drivers or anyone operating heavy machinery. Staying awake at such jobs is a standard matter of workplace safety. The technology was developed by CRCMining, supported by four universities and 13 industry partners.
Spree SmartCap gives you real-time heart rate readings in a simple, comfortable hat. It also monitors your temperature, movement and calorie burn.
Using a plethysmograph, Spree measures heart rate with a non-visible light that views the change in the size of blood vessels. This keeps you from the constraints of chest straps, while capturing essential workout parameters in a single easy to use device. The company says, by throwing body temperature into the equation along with heart rate obtained by the forehead, you get a more accurate calorie count during your workout.
Spree uses biometrics with medical grade technology to measure these metrics. It then syncs with your smartphone to track your workouts, showing the progress toward your goals in real-time.
If a smart cap is not your thing, you can opt for the smart headband. Just like the cap, the headband obtains your biometric information while channeling sweat from your eyes.
Now, onto a more noble cause. Neopenda is a baby hat with a novel sensor array that measures the four most important vital signs for newborns: heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation and temperature.
The low-power sensors use rechargeable batteries, and wirelessly transmit data to a central monitor which alerts nurses when a newborn is in distress. The company originally raised about $40,000 on Kickstarter to fund product development.
The wearable is designed to monitor vital signs of very young children. Hats on up to 24 babies in a single room send vital signs to a tablet running Neopenda’s custom software. The hats are being used in Uganda, where newborn mortality rates are high and hospital overcrowding is a nationwide problem.
Nearly 3 million babies die every year in their first month of life and 98% of these deaths occur in the developing world. This is happening at a time when there are interventions available to combat the primary causes. The hopes are that the devices will soon be in widespread use and saving thousands of lives in developing countries worldwide.
ZEROi is not your ordinary hat. A crowdfunded product, delivery to those who have funded the project is complete. The company is now looking to start offering the product online to all.
The intelligent wearable comes with four built-in bone conduction speakers and allows you listen to music or make phone calls, all without earphones. This means no cords to get tangled in. All you have to do is put the hat on and pair with your smartphone. The fabric of the garment ensures that no sound leaves the hat itself.
Because the hat doesn’t prevent you from hearing outside sound, you can remained focused on your surroundings. The built in microphone is there so you can make telephone calls, all with your smartphone safely tucked away.
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