I’ve said before that 2014 may well be the year of the 3D printer, but I might have to recant that now. A new contender has entered the ring, and this year might very well be the year of wearable technology.
This concept is taking off like a wildfire in many parts of the west. From glasses that project augmented realities, to baby monitor anklets you attach to infants, the hottest fashion trend for Spring 2014 isn’t skirts or stripes, but technology.
It’s not just a fashion statement either. The impact of wearables is already being felt in education, communication, navigating, entertainment and healthcare! Hospitals are using it to keep track of patients, police are using it to scan licence plates – wearing technology on a person has the potential to redefine our society.
Still don’t believe me? Projections say that by 2018 the overall number of wearable devices shipped to consumers is expected to real 130 million.
A NEW FAD?
Believe it or not, wearable technology dates back to the 1200s. The first eyeglasses were, essentially, magnifying glasses you could wear.
Scientists of the Chinese Qing Dynasty around the 1500s used to wear Abacuses’ as finger rings- a stylish and wearable calculator!
Data will not help you if you can’t see it when you need it. If you are wearing it, it is quick to find and easy to access. A flick of a wrist to look at how many steps you’ve taken, or a blink of your eyes to access a visual display – in a fast paced society being able to access different types of information quickly and easily can be worth more than gold.
So why now? If this isn’t a new concept, why does it suddenly seem like every company out there is trying to get a piece of this high tech pie. Well, there is no one answer as to why wearable Technology is suddenly so popular, but I can tell you why it’s been in the media.
It’s Amazon again! (They appear an awful lot in this blog). Last week Internet Titan Amazon.com launched a digital store front that specializes in just wearable technology.
When a powerhouse like Amazon embraces something, people everywhere stand up and take notice.
They may not be developing it themselves, but they are certainly embracing the growing number of these devices.
This online store also has a learning centre and a video library. If you are unsure about something, the answers can be found right next to where you put your credit card information.
HOW DO THEY WORK
Trying to explain how wearable technology works as a whole would be like trying to explain how all computers worldwide work in a single sentence. There are so many different types and companies that are producing their own devices, it is impossible to summarize all of them. I will say this – wearable technology can cover anything from clothes that regulate your body temperature to rings you wear on your fingers to control technology.
Being able to wear your technology might actually increase peoples happiness and job satisfaction. A study called The Human Cloud At Work surveyed over 300 IT decision makers in the UK and US over 2 years. The results showed that wearable devices increased peoples productivity by 8.5% while their job satisfaction rose by 3.5%.
On a personal level, wearable technology has the potential to redefine how we treat our bodies. If people can see real time feed back on their blood pressure, oxygen saturation and other biometric data they will be much more aware of their health and bodies. If data is recorded everyday, you will be able to bring exact information to your doctor.
What else could wearable technology potentially do for our civilization? Here are a few suggestions from workintelligent.ly
- Automatic mileage tracking when travelling for work or pleasure.
- Better business cards -device to device information transfer. How about transferring a business card through a handshake?
- Being able to access information in real time to answer questions. That might redefine how sales are done.
Sounds like it could make everyday life more productive and enjoyable! However, things are rarely that simple.
A while back we wrote a blog entry about the benefits and problems associated with Google Glass. If you want a recap, you can check it out HERE. Those difficulties aren’t just restricted to Google Glass or heads up displays; they apply to all forms of wearable technology.
On Easter Weekend 2014, Nike fired 55 of the 70 engineers who made its Fuelband health tracking device. The activity tracker was to be worn on the wrist and would send real time data to a connected Apple or Windows computer. Development of these, as well as several other similar products, have fizzled very quickly and are winding down. Why aren’t they doing well if wearable technology is such a popular trend right now. There are several reasons:
- The data is different between devices. Say you’re wearing a health monitoring device from Nike and another from Apple, odds are they will all show you different results for the same activity.
- What do you do with all the information you’re being given? It’s great to know how many steps you’ve taken, but what do you actually do with that knowledge?
- They just look bad! Does anyone really want to look like a Borg from Star Trek?
- Privacy concerns. If someone is wearing a device that can take photographs with a simple gesture, it’s almost impossible to tell when they are recording something.
- A lot of wearable technology is the same as what can be found on a smartphone. People are already carrying a smartphone, do they really want to wear devices that do the same thing, but don’t do it as well?
Part of the problem is that the market became over saturated. There were just too many products too fast. The various fitness trackers essentially have the same features and are difficult to distinguish from each other. The same can be said about the massive array of headgear product that are coming into development. Both Apple and Samsung have recently announced their own version of augmented reality headsets.
When something truly innovative comes along, things might change. For now though, the market is just filled with Borg drones and no queens.