The Potential of Wearable Technology
Wearable technology already has a huge variety of applications for both business clients and retail consumers. However, it is important to remember that the key to wearables taking off is that customers must show a willingness to keep wearing them so that they become an integral part of their daily lives. There’s no point in businesses developing apps for wearable technology that nobody uses.
Meanwhile, Intel recently said it was optimistic about the long-term potential for wearable devices, although it was scathing about the quality of the current generation of smartwatches in particular.Mike Bell, Intel’s general manager of new devices, told :
“Taping a cellphone to your wrist is not what I’d call a wearable. There has to be a reason why you’d use the technology. I haven’t seen anything I particularly like in smartwatches yet.”
Prominent journalists have also been quick to point out the distinction between functionality and desirability. Charles Arthur of The Guardian said: “Unlike a desktop or even laptop computer, which can look ugly but still be wonderfully functional, wearable computers have to look and feel good.”
And Sally Davies of The Financial Times acknowledged that the wearable technology industry needed to learn lessons from the fashion industry. But she warned: “Tech and fashion make for an uneasy mix… because the computing that underpins technology is all about stuff that is quantifiable and definable – while fashion focuses on the intangible, the intuitive, how things look and feel.”
What Does Independent Research Show?
A key factor behind this anticipated rapid rise is that wearable technology is becoming more and more desirable among the general public. Some 13 per cent of non-owners told the pollsters that they were keen on getting a wearable device and, of this group, 46 per cent revealed that they expected to have one in a year’s time.
Indeed, there’s no shortage of research suggesting that wearable technology is growing at an accelerate rate. To give just a couple more examples, a recent Accenture survey found that 52 per cent were interested in buying wearable technology while ABI Research predicted that the total market for wearable devices in sports and healthcare alone would grow by 8 times from 20.8m devices in 2011 to 169.5m in 2017.
The question that was set out to ask respondents was what exactly makes wearable technology desirable or otherwise and how they perceived wearable technology in its current form:
- 10 % would feel very fashionable wearing at least one wearable technology device (fashion tech items included)
- 8 % think wearable technology makes people look attractive
- 20 % think wearable technology makes people look intelligent and/or successful
- 18 % said wearable technology available at the moment is unattractively designed
What lessons can be drawn from these findings?
Firstly, wearable technology is clearly about more than just functionality. By their very nature, wearable technology devices are designed to be worn with items such as smart glasses, fitness trackers, smartwatches, smart jewellery and intelligent clothes, likely to be highly visible to the user’s social circle.
The current crop of wearables has been criticised in some quarters for being too visually unappealing, but the next generation of devices is clearly going to put aesthetics, centre stage.
Secondly, the market for wearable technology is growing at an incredible pace. Millions of people in the UK already own at least one item of wearable technology and, over the next 6 months, millions more will follow.
Last but certainly not least, there are still significant numbers of people who feel ambivalent towards this emerging sector. There’s still a lingering sense that wearable technology makes people look like show-offs, for example, which suggests an education job remains for the industry to explain to customers how it can help to enhance their lives.
Image by Wearable Tech