Wearable Technology Industry Is on the Rise
November 5, 2014
Devices that you can wear on your head, wrist or ankle help you communicate hands free, monitor your body’s health and fitness and more.
If you already own one or more of these devices, you’re not alone. The wearable technology industry is booming.
Technology market intelligence company ABI Research says wearable computing devices will be the norm within five years. The company estimates that the wearable technology market will grow to 485 million annual device shipments in 2018.
In February 2013, ABI Research estimated that 61 percent of the market was attributed to sports or activity trackers. Consider the Samsung Gear™ Fit or Jawbone® UP24™, for example. But developers are making strides in other sectors too, such as the healthcare and medical industry.
What is wearable technology?
Global information company IHS defines wearable technology as “products worn on the user’s body for an extended period of time, significantly enhancing the user’s experience as a result of the product being worn.” These products contain advanced circuitry and have at least a minimal level of independent processing capability.
The firm lists the five main applications of wearable technology as healthcare and medical, fitness and wellness, infotainment, industrial, and military. Wearable technology includes everything from heart-rate monitors to mapping devices to smart clothing.
Many wearable devices are companion pieces to smartphones and tablets. The Fitbit smart accessories track your daily activity, including the number of calories burned and steps taken. The devices sync with your computer or smartphone via an app, allowing you to get real-time feedback on your fitness level and goals. Also, the phablet-sized Samsung Galaxy Note® 3 smartphone pairs with the Samsung Gear™ 2 smart watch, which acts as a personal assistant for your phone and lets you know when an important email is coming in. The Gear is also compatible with the Samsung Galaxy S® 5, Samsung Galaxy S® 4 and Galaxy S® 4 mini.
An emerging industry
“The wearable tech industry is really in its early stages,” says Justin Butler, the head of business development for Misfit Wearables. “A lot of the recent wave has been in the health and fitness market.”
Misfit Wearables launched Misfit Shine, a sleek activity tracker about the size of a half-dollar that boasts a battery life lasting from four to six months, he says. The water-resistant Shine can be worn on a necklace, in a wristband or on your shoes while you’re swimming, biking and hiking.
Butler says Misfit designed the Shine to look like a piece of jewelry because “wearables weren’t exactly wearable.” His team wanted to help people improve their lives, so they focused on making a device stylish enough for people to wear all the time to track their data and habits.
Future developers should consider aesthetics and battery life when creating wearable technology, he says. They should also consider making the device a seamless extension of users’ lives and ensuring delivery of the right amount of data to users at the right time.
“The ability to communicate some information and deciding what the right information is to the user is really important,” he says.
There’s a lot of an opportunity for “wearables” outside of wellness and fitness, Butler says, specifically with identification and money-management applications.
“An extraordinary shift in point of view”
“What we’re really witnessing here with the wearable technology is the first generation of the ‘Internet of things’ and the age of context where we will have specific kinds of experiences presented as opportunities for us based on what we’re wearing—the sensor data that we’re wearing,” says Jeris JC Miller, a Google Glass Explorer who launched the Seattle Glass Explorers community.
“So I’m very much looking at the evolution of that, and especially how that pertains to the Pacific Northwest region, how we’re going to roll out here.”
Miller, the principal of the Dakani 3 Media production company, is one of the first people to don Google’s smart glasses. The 30-year technology industry veteran uses the glasses to send texts, check emails, participate in group chats and get turn-by-turn directions from the map application hands free.
She also uses the smart glasses in many projects to help see what the devices are capable of doing and how they can be used for the greater good. One project requires Google Glass owners to build an archive of the photographs and videos they record with the devices. Another project will showcase Glass Explorers and enthusiasts who aim to use the technology for philanthropy. Miller works with several Seattle-area companies and nonprofits to discover new medicinal, educational and artistic applications. The possibilities abound, she says.
“I’m really cutting the edges,” Miller says. “Our community, we’re really pushing the possibility of what Glass is and what Glass is going to be become.”
Miller says Glass lets you see someone else’s life in real time, which opens up the possibility for empathy and emotional intelligence.
“That’s an extraordinary shift in point of view that’s as big as when we left Earth and went to the moon and turned around and looked at Earth,” she says.