After Amazon launched a special wearable technology area of the website, Cameron Day, the development director at TMS, examines why the reality has not yet rivalled the rhetoric.
Isn’t it a relief? After what seems like an age of hype and hoopla the impending arrival of the next revolution in digital technology – wearable technology – is here.
Or at least it now has its own product section on Amazon, which is significant and means at least we can congratulate ourselves on another successful step in the journey of merging real and digital worlds. You can now open up Amazon and experience over 100 different products and one-click them to your letterbox.
Starting with CES in January, "wearables" have been one of the main talking points in 2014. Sales of wearable tech units are estimated to reach around 10 million this year, according to a report from Deloitte Consulting.
If potential were measured purely by column inches, creative technologist presentations, general marketing and technology buzz, that 10 million number would surely prove to be very conservative indeed. It’s surely now important for brands and business alike to explore technology based around services that can be attached to the body – using all the potential that limbs, orifices and cavities have to offer.
The main job is to separate reality from the general melee. There are some undeniable growth sectors within "wearables" particularly in fitness (Jawbone, Fitbit), health and wearable cameras (GoPro), where adoption levels are rising as the technology improves to provide clear and much-needed added value to the experience.
In other areas, however, growth appears harder to come by. Smart watches are still struggling to gain a foothold despite lots of investment (look at Samsung, for example) and perhaps the most heralded of all wearable tech products – the Google Glass – remains something of an expensive enigma. We’ve seen lot of PR’d examples of it being trialled and used but very few "real world" applications.
I believe there are a couple of key issues to wrestle with as "wearables" start to break out beyond the existing categories. Of course, like all new technologies, they will be expensive at the beginning. Battery life is a challenge and also there are undoubted issues around compatibility with other devices.
As Android and iOS keep pushing the pace, however, there are other fundamental human issues that will need addressing.
If they are to be worn and adopted beyond an initial trial phase, the design and aesthetic is crucial. If a brand is going to develop or add their name to a product, it needs to be as much a style choice as a utility one.
Keep it simple – It has taken nearly 25 years to develop a mobile phone that now forms the centrepiece of our own personal content hub. If we are to adapt other technology to supplement this hub, then it needs to provide a simple and clear benefit and not try to combine many features or services.
Projecting our privacy in a data-rich world is vital. If we are to start adopting more technology to help make our lives easier, we need to be sure that the information we share through these devices is ours and ours alone.
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