Wearable Technology Beyond Smartwatches

October 21, 2015

Contributor: Heather Pemberton Levy

The wearables market will move through many innovations and some early failures as people become comfortable with various applications.

It sounds like a scene from Harry Potter: a smart scarf can sense that you are unhappy and give you a warm hug. No, it’s not magic, but made possible by biometric sensors that can measure heartrate, stress levels and cull through data such as the weather and your past activity to determine your physical and emotional state.

“ The wearables market will move through many innovations and some early failures as people become comfortable with various applications.”

While wearables are currently an immature market, according to Nick Jones, VP, Distinguished Analyst, at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, they will move through distinct phases to enable many new services and drive new habits. In 2020, wearables will exceed 500 million shipments. Furthermore, Gartner’s Strategic Planning Assumption (SPA) indicates that by 2020, over 35% of the population in mature markets will own at least one wearable electronic device. However, wearable popularity will vary by age and battery limitation may cause some abandonment of smartwatches in the near term.

Many startups, few standards

Early entrants in the wearables market may offer a variety of innovations but are often funded by crowdsourced models and rapidly fail. The industry currently lacks standards as multiple vendors, experiences, and APIs battle it out. Furthermore, wearable popularity will vary by age with younger demographics adopting them in the near term and eventually inspiring a new set of applications such as for health, as they grow older.

“On the horizon: Build your own wearables”

More microinteractions

In the near term, most wearables will focus on notification with glanceable information, such as the smartwatch. Alerts will begin to incorporate nontext notifications such as haptic and audio alerts or smart jewelry that changes color when new email arrives. The next phase of wearables will allow microinteractions of less than five seconds that allow for gesture control such as a squeeze, tap, touch, or shake to confirm actions. Also on the horizon: Build your own wearables in which consumers and startups can create a variety of wearables for personal use or resale. Wearable opportunities will include the ability to:

  • Track and geofence individuals e.g. patients in hospitals, hockey players, children
  • Use wearables as the remote control
  • Authenticate payment and identity or unlock doors
  • Socially tweet from clothing or wearable devices
  • Sense health and emotion with pulse, blood pressure, temperature, EEG, etc.

Ethics and risk

Wearables require ethical use of personal information and various cultures and age groups will have different attitudes towards information privacy. Furthermore, organizations must assess risks across their customer relationships, user experience, and corporate arenas. In the next twelve months, CIOs should not only beware of the increased dangers of ubiquitous information logging by staff and customers, but also monitor the wearables space for new devices and habits, and establish a strong analytics capability to mine the data collected by wearable devices.

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