Are wearable technologies the future?

If you found a Jawbone or a Fitbit in your stocking this Christmas, you probably won’t need any convincing about the impact that wearables are already having on our lives.  If you asked for one of these monitors as a gift for Christmas, it’s probably because you want to make changes to your life, or just your body.  Either way, by either investing in or asking someone else to invest in one of these wearables on your behalf, you’re getting involved in what I believe is likely to be one of the next technological revolutions.

Wearables are driven by the Internet of Things and have already and will continue to change dramatically how we interact with each other as well as how we monitor our health and fitness.  Products like the Pebble and the Apple watch (when it comes) will enable us to directly monitor our health and pay for goods and services and beyond, as well as knowing the time of day.  These devices have already and will continue to change the way we all engage with each other, with businesses and how businesses interact with consumers.

Key sectors where wearable technologies are already in place include sport and fitness; wellness and health; medical devices and apps; security and fashion and glamour as well as communication and gaming.  So it’s clear to see that this whole concept isn’t new, but it’s sure to develop rapidly in the not too distant future.

Here are just some of the hot items that are already in the wearables market and some that are on the horizon that I believe are worthy of watching:

  1. Fitness monitors. There’s no getting away from the fact that fitness monitors are at the forefront of wearables right now.  A way of providing accurate and up to date information about your daily activities from movement to sleep, this is a great way to make sure you don’t cheat on your New Year’s resolution!
  2. Optical Head-Mounted Displays (OHMDs). When it comes to OHMDs, Google glasses lead the way and are a great example of how wearables are bringing entertainment and education within the reach of more and more people while on the move and no matter where they are.  The perfect way to watch a video, play a game or even to make a video, Google glasses are already reported as being used in the beauty industry by make-up artists to demonstrate the application of cosmetics to let customers watch the video at home so they can copy the techniques.  This is a great example of a wearable that can make both the consumer and the business owner’s ‘lot’ a whole lot better.
  3. Health monitors. With pretty much every health service in the world under pressure due to limited resources and growing patient numbers as well as a host of other challenges, the more we can do to prevent health issues the better.  Smart health monitors enable us to monitor and analyse key data regarding our health.  Blood pressure and heart monitors are already commonplace, but there is no doubt that this sector will broaden and deepen.
  4. Smart watches. Smart watches like the Pebble and the soon to be launched Apple Watch are still relatively thin on the ground, in part because of cost but also because of look.  While these watches are very much in their infancy right now, there’s little doubt that once the Apple watch hits the shelves adoption will grow.  What remains to be seen however is whether or not Apple will come up with a product that wins a justifiably sizable chunk of the market or whether people will buy just because it’s Apple.  Watch this space (excuse the pun).
  5. Smart clothes and accessories. Whether it’s clothing with heat sensors and health monitors thrown in or the focus is on fitness, there’s no doubt that fabric manufacturers and clothing designers will be aiming to make wearables truly wearable in the not too distant future.

The opportunities

Wearables provide significant opportunities for innovators, entrepreneurs and consumers in equal measure.  For anyone with an enquiring mind and the vision to stir up the status quo, there is certainly scope to make a significant mark in the wearables sector.  The one thing that is well worth bearing in mind here though is the fact that any wearable needs to look cool to even stand the chance of being adopted; anything ugly simply won’t do.  The other wearable’s test is whether or not people would stress if they left their home without it.  Anyone who has left their phone at home, not returned to get it and had to spend a whole day without it will get exactly what I mean by this one.

The threat

The only real downside of this wearable revolution is the ‘big brother’ aspect that it potentially exposes us to.  In fact a fitness instructor in Canada is reported to be victim of just this situation.  In this case, data from her Fitbit has been said to be being used as evidence that she wasn’t quite as fit to do her job as she should have been – so watch out if you go the wearable route in a professional capacity.

About the Author

Want to chat? Why not get in touch annaanna mariemarie.taylor@innovationcentre.org, link me at http://uk.linkedin.com/in/annamarietaylor1/ or follow me on twitter @anna_mtaylor.

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