Which wearables will have the biggest impact on your life?
At first sight, Wimbledon winner, Andy Murray, might seem an unlikely ambassador for wearables but he's fascinated by the potential of the technology in areas like sport and health. Since devices like UP by Jawbone, Nike FuelBand, Fitbit and Apple Watch first burst on to the scene, the demand for wearables has grown exponentially, both in consumer and business circles.
We’re using them for everything from tracking our fitness, monitoring our sleep, locating our pets right through to checking vital stats such as our heart rate or improving safety and efficiency for field services and maintenance. And the market isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. According to BI Intelligence, the global wearables market will grow at a compound annual rate of 35% over the next five years, reaching 148 million units shipped annually in 2019, up from 33 million units shipped this year. So what are the most popular devices out there, where is the market heading and will the smartphone ever be replaced?
Which wearables are proving most popular?
A few years ago, momentum for wearables revolved around Google Glass. However, unable to overcome the technical and social challenges that stifled its adoption, the tech giant stopped selling the product in January this year for consumers. Attention shifted to smart watches, with the launch of devices like Samsung Gear S2 and the Apple Watch sending consumers into a frenzy. Penned as Apple’s most personal product ever, the Apple Watch helped rocket the tech company to the number two spot in the wearables market, on its very first entry to the market. It will be interesting to see where Apple turns its attention next – just recently filing a patent for a smart ring that could work in conjunction with other devices such as a phone.
The area that I believe has the greatest potential for growth is smart textiles. Developments are already being made in the field, giving us smart clothes that reveal information on our posture, heart rate or body temperature. CuteCircuit for example, is an East London fashion house leading the way in interactive clothing design and wearable microelectronics, and I expect to see huge demand for these kinds of products in the future. A point should also be made around chip implants, with ingestible tracking devices set to take the wearables industry by storm. Would you swallow a smart pill?
Dependency of wearables
The relationship between wearables and smartphones is incredibly complex: while some devices won’t function without a central body to connect to, others, such as smart watches, could be totally independent very soon. This is because a hub, like a smartphone, is often required to send and receive data to the wearable device. However, in a scenario where the individual needs the use of both hands, a mobile phone is not sufficient, and so here, wearables have the opportunity to replace smartphones entirely by combining with voice interaction.
For IT services organisations, the opportunity of wearables is huge. At Atos, we’re partnering with our customers to collect and make use of the data generated by wearable devices, in turn balancing this with careful storage to ensure consumer trust. And, as the market continues to grow, there are only going to be more opportunities to get involved with. The next step as I see it will involve the development of wearables that are able to operate automatically, without user prompts; and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the market over the next few years.
Look out for the next post in this series on wearable technologies, in which my colleague, Wolfgang Thronicke, will touch upon issues surrounding usability and comfort, as well as more technical challenges around energy management, privacy and security.