Wearable Technology: Wave of the Future or Just Another Trend?
As anyone who ever though a calculator watch was cool in the 1980s could attest, wearable technology has come a long way. These days the product category is among the buzziest in tech circles. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, dozens of new wearable tech products were displayed. Some observers are convinced wearables are the next big thing, while others are more measured in their assessment.
“Wearable technology has created a lot of excitement in the tech community,” said Scottsdale Arizona entrepreneur Jason Hope. “But that excitement has to translate into broad consumer acceptance. There are still some natural obstacles to be overcome. Some people might object to the aesthetics of certain wearables, and other consumers may not be convinced a wearable offers enough separate utility from their smartphone. But the future looks very promising.”
Let’s take a look at some popular wearable technology and where the space might be headed.
The Watch of the Future
When we talk about wearable tech products poised for major growth, smartwatches are usually part of the conversation. The premise makes sense — unlike, say, goggles, watches are commonly worn and easily accessed. It theoretically shouldn’t take much to convince a watch wearer to upgrade from a standard timepiece to the smartwatch of her dreams. Tech companies certainly seem to believe this, as many of these devices have either hit the market or will do so soon. The best of them offer some of the same functionality as a smartphone, or can be integrated to work in concert with smartphones and other devices.
So what’s not to like? Well, appearance, for one. When it comes to styling, many of these smartwatches pale in comparison to their dumbwatch brothers. Many tend to look plasticky or cheap, and almost none of them look refined or elegant. These are watches wearers would feel comfortable sporting at the gym, but not on a dinner date, necessarily. This state of affairs may be changing, however. The Pebble Steel offers a clean, well-made, modern look, not unlike something you’d see from Citizen of any mainstream watch maker.
Another potential game changer for the smartwatch category would be the introduction of the long-rumoured iWatch from Apple. In typical Apple fashion, the existence of the product has been shrouded in mystery and misdirection. The company has refused to confirm it’s working on a smartwatch, but it has made subtle gestures in that direction, including trademark filings. If the iWatch is real and about to launch in 2014, it could revolutionize the wearable technology tech category. Apple’s gigantic, rabid, in-built fan base would almost certainly flock to the product, moving smartwatches from the margins to the mainstream almost instantaneously.
If the iWatch fails to materialize, Samsung’s Galaxy line could end up being wearable tech’s prime growth driver. While Samsung’s cachet can’t match Apple’s, it has the reach and the resources to strongly position its product. The fact that Samsung has moved into the category could even be read as evidence that Apple is soon to follow, as it’s unlikely the company would be willing to cede an exciting new product category entirely to its main rival.
Smart Jewelry, Head Phones and Other Products
While much of the wearable buzz has centered around the watch, the category has expanded to included wristbands, jewelry, head phones and just about anything else that can be worn and adapted. Jewelry in particular is a promising area. Although some women may balk at wearing an unsightly, gadgety-looking smartwatch, a small piece of well-designed jewelry is another story. It’s more subtle and potentially just as useful.
While watches are for everyone, hi-tech goggles remain the province of early adopting geeks. That may change, however. Smartwatches and smart fitness wearables provide users another way to use existing technology. Google Glass offers something far more ambitious — a new way to view everyday life. While the promise of augmented reality sounds fantastic, the reality is that the technology is still in its infancy. The company released the product on a very limited scale in 2012 and has been tweaking and refining the technology with user feedback ever since. With a price tag of nearly $1,500, don’t expect mass adoption anytime soon. But in the long run, Google Glass could be the most transformative of all wearable technology.
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About Author: Amy Taylor is a technology and business writer. Amy began her career as a small business owner in Phoenix, Arizona. She has taken that knowledge and experience and brought that to her unique writing capabilities. She really enjoys new business related issues that are tied directly to technology.
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