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Luis Alvarez Talks Tech with Rebecca Costa – Wearable Technology and 2012 Summer Olympics

Rebecca Costa: Let’s find something out about technology that we don’t already know. Mr. Luis Alvarez, the CEO of Alvarez Technology Group is joining us to give us the inside scoop. Welcome back, Mr. Alvarez.

Luis Alvarez: How are you doing, Rebecca?

RC: Well, I’m a little tongue tied. I will tell you that I had a very, very long evening last naight, flying in. Travel has become absolutely miserable, and I was delayed on three planes. And I come into the studio this morning, and boy, I couldn’t say my name if my life depended on it.

LA: Well, you know, it’s been a long week. It’s been a long year, so I know exactly what you mean. I’m glad it’s heading into the weekend.

RC: I know. Summer came and went, and suddenly I turned around and it was Labor Day.

LA: No, you’re kidding. It can’t be.

RC: I don’t know what happened. So, what technology news do you have for us today?

LA: Well, speaking of summer, you know, the Olympics in London just concluded, an extravaganza of athletic prowess for more than two weeks. You know, one of the little known facts about these Olympic Games is they were the most technologically advanced games ever, in particular, when it comes to something called wearable technology. What I’m talking about here is a new type of technology designed to help athletes improve their performance by embedding sensors and chips in their clothing to help them analyze how they’re doing relative to the competition. You know, Olympic athletes may be on the leading edge of this kind of technology, but they’re not alone. Within a couple of years, we’ll all be using wearable technology to help us manage our day-to-day lives, maybe even think better.

RC: Yeah. I imagine that every athlete is looking for an advantage, but how does wearable technology exactly work? How does it help them improve?

LA: Well the concept behind wearable technology is pretty simple. Once you understand how tiny these devices have become. They can be woven right into traditional clothing. For example, let’s say you’re a golfer, and you want to improve your game. Today, you’d probably take lessons from a pro who watches you take some swings and may even provide feedback based on what he or she sees. If you want to spend a little more money, you probably go to a special shop that records your swing and does even more detailed analysis. Now, imagine if you could wear a specially designed golf shirt that had tiny sensors embedded in the cloth that sent signals to an app running on your smart phone or tablet computer, and that app provided a more comprehensive analysis of your swing based on real data and maybe even historical data, not just what somebody can see. Well, that describes a new line of clothing by a company called Electricfoxy. Not only do they have a really cool name they’re creating some cool clothes that you wear that provide real-time feedback on the sports that you play. That includes golf, baseball, even yoga. They’ve even developed an application of this technology to help people who are undergoing physical therapy so they can do that therapy at home and have the app tell them if they’re doing right or wrong.

RC: I’m not sure that I want to wear clothes that judge me and inspect me that way. I like my clothes to be friendly and not so judgmental. All kidding aside, I can see the value of this kind of technology. So, what else can we see out of this?

LA: You know, the market for wearable technology is expected to exceed $6 billion by 2016, and it’s being driven largely by the demand for real-time data and, primarily, real-time health-related data. Now, there’s a company for example that’s created a little device that you carry in your pocket and clip to whatever you’re wearing, and it measures the steps you take, the motion of your body, similar activities like that to provide a comprehensive report of how much effort you’re expending throughout the day, how many calories you’ve burnt. It’s kind of a pedometer on steroids, if you will. And there’s a private Web portal that collects all this information and then gives you a historical view of your daily activities. They’re also developing a lot of complementary devices like a digital scale that reports your weight on the same Web portal, using a Wi-Fi in your home, so you can track both ends of the spectrum and figure out how well you’re doing at achieving your fitness goals.

One of the most anticipated pieces of wearable technology this year is Google’s smart glasses. What Google has done is create really cool looking glasses that are equipped with a wireless computer, a camera, GPS and a head-up display. You wear the glasses and when you look at something, you can run a search to identify what you’re looking at, and the results of that search pop up on inside of the glasses where only you can see it. For me, these kinds of things would have a real value. Like you, I meet a lot of people every day, but probably unlike you, I forget a lot of names, so I imagine a day when I can be wearing a pair of Google glasses and when I look at someone, face recognition software will identify the person, pop up their name on a screen that only I can see and then I can talk to them as if I remember their name. I know it’s cheating, but it’s still pretty cool.

RC: So, you mean you could run up to a stranger and suddenly have their name, their children’s name, their dog’s name, their birthday, all the things that you forgot about them might just come up on your database inside your glasses?

LA: That’s what the future holds.

RC: That is scary. That is scary and amazing. So, I want to know; are these Google glasses available today?

LA: Unfortunately, only if you’re a developer and you want to create software for them. Public release of the glasses is probably more than a year away. But you know, the Google glasses are only one of hundreds of new devices that are being developed by companies all over the world, taking advantage of these rapidly shrinking and increasingly powerful computing devices. It’s interesting to note that most of these devices are for medical purposes. They’re going to replace those clunking monitoring machines that force people to stay in bed or wheelchairs. These wearable devices will mean mobility and freedom of movement for a lot of sick people today who are relegated to spending much of their time tethered to a machine plugged into a wall. It’s an interesting future.

RC: Right, it really is. And when you think about it, you know, whether you’re out on a golf course, let’s say, and you want to come back and see what your muscles were doing or what you were really doing, or whether you want to look at how you’ve improved in physical therapy, imagine being able to go to physical therapy and then send that information to your physician that can see whether the physical therapy is working for you in the right way … because they don’t really know.

LA: Yeah, absolutely, and they can monitor you to make sure you’re actually doing it. So, you know, people can’t cheat.

RC: But this is feeling creepy, like Big Brother.

LA: Well, just think about everything that is creepy about the devices that we use today. You have your iPhone that has GPS on there, and if somebody wants to track you, they might be able to. And we’ve accepted that one of the downsides to having some great technology is that we give up a little bit of freedom and a little bit of privacy in some of this stuff.

RC: There’s so much opportunity for abuse. And the security of this data … people actually knowing what you did and how you moved around. … You know, I don’t know. It makes me nervous. Am I wrong to be nervous about that?

LA: No, you’re right. And actually, one of the concerns that I have, especially about these medical devices is how secure are they going to be, since they’re transmitting over wireless airwaves. What if somebody can intercept that information and do something nefarious with it? So, security is going to have to be a top concern for these manufacturers.

RC: Yeah, I’m really concerned. We generate all this data, and where does it go, and how can you possibly make it that secure? And as you know, next week, we’re speaking to Parmy Olson, who’s talking about cyber insurgency and these big hacking rings that want to get into all this data. And it seems the more we create, the more it energizes these hackers.

LA: I’m looking forward to next week and listen to what he has to say.

RC: Yeah, well, we’re almost out of time here, but I want to ask you to please come back next week and give us another insight into technology. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy these segments.

LA: Well, I enjoy them, too, Rebecca. Thank you for having me. This is Luis Alvarez of the Alvarez Technology Group reminding everyone that when it comes to technology, forewarned is forearmed.

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