The rapid advancements in Internet-of-Things and wearable devices mean that over the next five years, people will have the capacity to augment themselves in ways that was once the stuff of science fiction.
“Wearable devices are starting to hit the mainstream market and what was once the realm of sci-fi is now becoming a part of everyday life”.
Both startups and the “old tech companies” are betting big on wearables being the next big thing. Google is working on a contact lens that measures a person’s glucose level by analyzing his tears. The lens will then transmit data to his smartphone. This means that for diabetics, painful finger pricks will be a thing of the past. The product is expected to reach consumers within five years. The tech giant has also filed a patent for an electronic skin tattoo that the user can stick on his throat and use it to communicate with other devices through voice commands.
GPS devices embedded in your pet’s collar are considered a normal thing now. However, what a pleasant surprise it would be if a chip embedded into your skin contains all your personal information and acts as an electronic key to your house, car, and office. These types of wearables are now being referred to as implantables, which means that they come under the jurisdiction of the FDA. Companies are also working on swallowable devices that release the drugs into the body based on the prescription schedule.
These amazing developments in the tech industry are creating a surge of interest in wearables among consumers. Here are the top trends in the wearables market that we are going to be hearing about a lot in 2014 and even see in our stores pretty soon.
Smartwatches will be big
The Consumer Electronics Association estimates that there will be a million smartwatches sold this year, compared to 600,000 in 2013.
Apple is widely rumored to launch its “iWatch” this year and as with all other Apple products, is expected to be a game changer in its category. But Apple is already behind the competition, when it comes to smartwatches. Pebble Technology already has a smartwatch in the market since 2013 and has sold around 300,000 units. Pebbles are the company that had the most successful fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, raising $10.2 million in five weeks in 2012. The Pebble smartwatch can work with both Android and iOS using Bluetooth.
Samsung’s smartwatch, the Galaxy Gear, launched in Sept. 2013, however has not fared very well with customers. In October, it was reported that the Gear had a 30% return rate at Best Buy. Even Chinese counterfeiters have reportedly declined to make knockoffs of the product!
Health and fitness wearables
Heart-rate monitors, pedometers and activity monitors will be integrated into wristbands, watches, clothes, and accessories. These wearables will not just be for fitness enthusiasts but also be used in hospitals, assisted living facilities, and remote patient monitoring. Fitness devices are not just for the wrist and measuring the heart rate. There are fitness socks that can measure your podiatric data. For athletes, this kind of data is valuable since it offers insights about their exercise regimen’s progress and how their body is reacting to it.
Activity trackers are one of the main growth areas in the wearables market with companies such as LG, Nike+ FuelBand and Fitbit already having an impressive lineup of products.
But a major concern with these devices is data privacy for the patients. Will insurance companies be able to access patient data or monitor their health 24/7? Many questions need to be answered before these devices become widely adopted.
The tech and fashion industry will join hands
One of the main criticisms of wearables available right now is that most of the products are not appealing enough for the fashion conscious set. It’s just not trendy enough and cool enough for them in most of the cases.
But tech companies are teaming up with fashion houses to give their wearables an “IT” appeal. Intel Corporation has announced collaboration with Barneys New York, Opening Ceremony, and the Council of Fashion Designers of America to explore more opportunities together and increase dialogue and cooperation between the tech and fashion worlds. Industrial designer Gadi Amit, who has worked with Fitbit, says that designs of the wearables need to be “nearly sensual”.
Google Glass will be in the news not only due to its anticipated widespread adoption but also for other reasons. As it becomes widely available, people are going to be wearing it to the movies, while driving and in other places where others might not like a video camera recording their every move.
A California woman, who is one of the Google Glass Explorers, was charged with “watching TV while driving” (she won her case). Another Glass Explorer was briefly detained by the FBI while watching a movie because he was suspected of recording the movie.
The strong emotions that Google Glass evokes among some sections of the public shows that wearables might not get the positive response that many companies are expecting for their products. There are also data privacy concerns that have not been addressed yet. Organizations will soon have to put in place policies regarding which wearables are allowed in the workplace and at the same time making sure that they do not infringe on the employee’s rights.
In spite of all the challenges that tech companies are facing in launching wearables, the future seems to be bright for this industry. 2014 could turn out to be the year that people will look back as the year that wearables started becoming a part of our daily wear.