The time is now for wearable technology
April 27, 2015
What do you think about wearable technology?
Love it? Hate it? Thrilled by the prospect or bored by the hype?
Well, there’s certainly a lot of noise and lots of opinions, with hardly a day going by where there’s not a new wearables conference being promoted, a new market study or new product idea.
I ask the question because I was asked it myself the other day. My first reaction was to be positive and excited about it; after all, my company specialises in flexible electronics and wearable technology is a core focus.
But why am I positive and excited?
I think that the main reason is that it just feels right. It just makes sense. The transition to wearables is just the next step in electronics technology evolution.
Many years ago, we would go into a designated room to watch a television, use a phone, use a computer; then the mobile revolution enabled us to hold devices in our hands, which could do all these things, and which we now take for granted.
The next logical step then would be to no longer hold or carry devices but to be able to wear them or have them on our bodies. To ‘wear’ technology may seem laughable, but 30 years ago, who would have imagined that you’d be able to talk on a phone not wired into your wall?
Well, just as there was a change in technology shape and style as we moved from the days of ‘going to a designated room’ to holding devices in our hands, there will be a similar change as we move beyond mobile to wearable.
I think that the essence of that change will be around enabling electronics technology to be on surfaces and enabling those surfaces to be shaped, flexed, contoured around our bodies.
So, whether we’re talking about technology on our bodies (watches, bracelets, bands etc.) or technology in/on our clothes (displays, sensors, labels etc.), it all comes to life when compelling functionality is shaped to ‘human form’.
The capability to shape electronics and enable wearable technology already exists – from major consumer electronics and high-end fashion brands, to disruptive start-ups.
There’s a huge amount of activity, energy and planning going into engineering wearable technology. As with any new technological development however, we’re bound to see success and failure: some great ideas will succeed, some great ideas will fail, some bad ideas will fail and perhaps even some bad ideas will succeed! You only have to look to British inventor James Dyson who spent five years developing the first bagless vacuum cleaner churning out over 500 prototypes before he succeeded.
Just as we marvelled at the Communicator in Star Trek all those years ago, and now take the mobile for granted, wearable technology will too become rooted in our daily lives. As a society we expect convenience, and what could be more convenient than looking down at your arm to make a call, check the news, or monitor your heartrate.
To me, the time just feels right for wearables to enter the mass market. It’s just the next step in how we consume electronics.