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Wearable technology – devices that combine fashion with advanced computer functions – is at a critical turning point. An IMS report predicts the wearable market will be worth $6 billion in three years, and those are conservative estimates.
I recently spoke with Christian DeFeo, wearable technology expert at electronics distributor Newark element14, to get to the bottom of these projections. Will wearables really amass $50 billion by 2016? How are we going to get there, what stands in the way and what does it all mean?
Here are the four things to know about wearable technology.
Wearables are still in development.
Google Glass and the Pebble are first generation devices. There are still several technology solutions that need developing and mass market roadblocks that need eliminating. These include power source, cost, network connectivity and perceived utility. In other words: an affordable device with long battery life, reliable Internet access and functions that are unique from a smartphone.
Great risk, greater reward.
Wearables are a bleeding edge technology. With high-yield, cutting-edge innovation comes the risk of encountering problems for which there are no solutions yet. Early adopters should keep in mind that their experiences may be similar to early iPad/iPhone 4 purchasers. What you think the technology will be useful for may differ from what you actually use it for.
If you wear it, you share it.
Wearables will propel forward “The Internet of Things,” in which all objects and people are interconnected and communicative. When we put on our wearables we become individual nodes of the Internet. The implications of that are incredibly divisive. Our data will be accessible on a much more intense and personal level with devices like Google Glass. However, information will also be shared much more easily and efficiently. Whatever your perspective, wearables are a gateway technology.
Wearable tech will revolutionize whole industries.
Biometric fitness monitors, heartbeat sensors and glucose trackers will change the way we think about healthcare. Programmable GPS gloves, door-unlocking NFC rings and embedded alarm t-shirts will enhance geo-location and security. Textile manufacturing – the original revolutionary industry which has seen substantial decline in recent years – might even find a new way forward if we consume wearable tech in the same natural way we consume “ordinary” t-shirts, hats, jackets and jeans.
Whether a future of ubiquitous wearables disturbs you or excites you, wearable technology is worth watching. And pretty soon there will be something for everyone.
“World Market for Wearable Technology – A Quantitative Market Assessment.” IMS Research (2012).