May 23, 2014

Wearable tech: does it have a future?

Written By Martin Sandhu
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Google Glass, smartwatches, fitness devices, wearable cameras – wearable tech is bursting onto the scene in a big way. You only have to take a look at all the new devices unveiled at CES 2014 in January to see just how seriously manufacturers are taking wearables, and you would be forgiven for thinking that in a few years’ time everyone will be plugged into some kind of wearable gadget.

And yet…not everyone is so convinced. So what is the future of wearable technology?

The Problem with Wearables

Wearables are being hyped up as the new must-have accessories by manufactures who are desperate for the next big thing. The tech industry relies on new and innovative products, and now that smartphones are starting to look the same and prices are falling, they need a new angle.

However, the simple problem with wearables is that many people don’t really need them. At least, not in the same way as smartphones. Wearables are asking us to develop completely new habits and incorporate the gadgets into our lives. They are simply accessories that are not necessary to get through the day, especially when compared to mobile phones.

Positioning Failure

Wearables also have a problem in the way they are being positioned. At the moment, they are being targeted at first adopters rather than mainstream consumers. Manufactures are telling us all about the science and technology behind the products rather than focusing on the consumer experience. In short, they are failing to clarify how these products will improve our lives. People are essentially a bit confused about why they should really care about these products.

Who Wants a Smartwatch?

Another problem is that many wearables are simply not attractive devices. Smartwatches are clunky and awkward. The only wearable devices that are proving popular so far are the smaller, less obtrusive devices like the Sony SmartBand. Until they become desirable items that people actually want to wear, they are going to find it hard to catch on.

Wearables: Destined to Be Niche Products

Wearables are here to stay. Now that the technology is here, it is unlikely that they will ever go away. But perhaps they have been hyped too much. Perhaps, rather than being as ubiquitous as smartphones, wearable devices will serve more niche roles.

For example, smart devices could be highly advantageous for certain tasks, such as professionals who need quick access to information while they work, or fitness enthusiasts and professional athletes who are concerned about monitoring their health.

It is easy to see how wearables will become popular niche products. But mass-market devices that everyone is wearing? It still seems that this is a long way off.