The recent Wearable Tech Expo in New York in July brought together the great and the good in the field to discuss the future of this rapidly growing field. The general consensus was that wearable tech has the potential to be one of the biggest growth markets in the world over the next few years, but there are some issues that the industry needs to address if itâ€™s to make the most of the opportunities that come its way.
Keynote speaker Myriam Joire, from legendary smartwatch developers Pebble, was upbeat, but advised that if the industry was to make the great leap forward then one particular phrase had to become the buzzword for the future â€“ standardisation. She recognised that the industry was still in its infancy, which in many ways made the idea of standardisation much easier to attain. “I think that we’re small enough of an industry that we can’t really afford to not work together to some extent. I think there’s enough room for us to all work together and still compete,” she commented in an interview during the conference. â€œStandardization would give a better user experience, with consistency in both hardware and software, from power cord chargers and battery life to operating systems,â€ she added.
And other industry leaders agree. Wearables are, without doubt, the tech of the future, and once the public has been convinced that they need wearables in their life, the benefits could be huge. But if that initial aspirational hurdle is to be cleared, the hard-core basics such as battery life (a main bugbear for all tech consumers) has to be tackled.
Joe Fitzgerald, senior manager at Deloitte Consulting, agreed. “Eventually we’ll have to get to a point where there is more standardization between hardware and software platforms.â€ But itâ€™s in the software aspect of wearables that he sees the main issues: “There’s so much fragmentation in that market and a lot of solutions for the same space,” he added.
Creating wearables to suit the market
Wearables is estimated to reach a net worth of around Â£30 billion by 2018, so itâ€™s pretty clear that uniformity and standardisation across the board will certainly help to achieve that target. But there is another main sticking point (apart from price), and thatâ€™s whether or not consumers will actually buy into the idea that wearables represent the future. The big question that most consumers will ask is â€˜what are they for? And do they offer me something more than Iâ€™m already getting from my smartphone, for example?â€™
To crack this problem, manufacturers and developers need to ensure that they create products that consumers actually want, not products that the developers think the public wants. Thereâ€™s a big difference between the two, and it could be the make-or-break hurdle for wearables in the future. Lief Storer, CEO of Boombotix, said recently: â€œWearables need to be contextually aware and adapt to the user, not the other way around.â€
The futureâ€™s bright, the futureâ€™s wearableâ€¦
Perhaps the final word on the future of wearables and just how important they are should go to one of the main development and research specialists, Plastic Logic. Their expertise in developing flexible screen technology could revolutionise the future of wearables.
They also have a very well-informed handle on just where wearables are heading, as demonstrated recently in a speech by CEO Indro Mukerjee: “Flexible electronics is a reality, already proven through the development and manufacture of plastic, bendable displays and sensors. For the first time a fully organic, plastic, flexible AMOLED demonstration has been achieved with a real industrial fabrication process. This marks the start of a revolution in wearable products, the next frontier in consumer electronics – 2014 will be the year that wearable technology starts to go mainstream.”