The wearable future from bracelets to mouth guards

NikeFuel forum

A general view of the Nike FuelBand SE during the NikeFuel Forum at Spring Studios back in 2013 in New York City. 

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When Nike first came out with those little bracelet-fitness trackers they call FuelBands, everyone from basketball star Kevin Durant to Apple CEO Tim Cook was wrapping them around their wrists. But there are reports out now that Nike might be stepping out of the wearable technology market, after it made layoffs in its FuelBand engineering team.

The brave new world of wearable technology has come a long way since the good old fashioned wrist watch. 

Of course, these days, wearable tech can do a lot more than just tell time.  Gadgets like the FuelBand and FitBit track the steps you take, and the calories you burn. Others can track your heart rate, or control your thermostat and the volume on your stereo.

And while Nike may be stepping back from manufacturing its own wrist-band activity tracker, that area between your arm and your hand is still shaping up to be a very hot place for tech innovation.  Apple is expected to come out with an iWatch sometime this year.  Google has been developing an operating system, designed just for watches and other wrist-friendly gadgets. 

"We expect great growth in this market over the next few years," says Chris Jones, vice president at the tech analyst firm Canalys. Jones says just over 7 million of these "smart bands" sold around the world last year, and predicts that number could triple in 2014. 

But all you other body parts out there-- don't be jealous.  You too will get cool technology.  Over at the wearable tech company i1 Biometrics, they are developing mouth guards that go in the mouths of football player, "to sense whether or not they've suffered impacts that might warrant them being pulled from the game," explains David Gallaher, the firm's social media director.

There are also smart band-aids that adhere to your skin and track your hydration.  Smart tattoos with RFID chips you can plant under your skin to monitor all sorts of things. Only the tech crazed will be using this kind of stuff in the near future, but soon they might be as common as a wrist watch...used to be.

About the author

Krissy Clark is the senior reporter for Marketplace’s Wealth & Poverty Desk.

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