The concept of wearable technology is not new. After all, people have been wearing watches for hundreds of years. The fact that wrist watches and pocket watches have been around since the 16th century demonstrates quite conclusively that the idea behind wearable technology is not only not new, but quite well accepted, too. So it should come as no surprise that in this digital era, the idea of wearable technology is gaining traction for a whole new generation of devices.
Already, digital technology has found its way off of our computer desks and into our daily routine. One could argue pretty convincingly that this trend started with the proliferation of cell phones in the 1990s, though technically, these devices were carried in purses and put in pockets – and not specifically worn on the body. But the idea is there: incorporating technology into our daily lives by taking it with us. Ultimately, that’s what the watch did 500 years ago. So what’s the future hold? Well, look around a bit and you’ll see that the future is already here.
The smartwatch, and other wearable tech, is still in its infancy. As a result, smartwatches have fought a bit of an uphill battle since first hitting the scene in earnest a couple of years ago. Even though a number of manufacturers have entered into the fray – including Samsung and Apple – these devices still aren’t catching on like their smartphone cousins. The silver lining to that black cloud is that they are starting to sell in greater numbers than before, and as more people become adopters, these devices are likely to have more and more people championing their benefits.
With smartphones becoming more powerful and capable devices with each new generation, wearable alternatives are currently in the position of having to earn their keep. Consumers are wondering, “Why should I buy a smartwatch when I already have a smartphone?” And it’s a worthwhile question. The reasons are actually several, of course, though might not matter to everyone. Smartwatches offer a more streamlined user experience, more seamlessly blend into a person’s daily routine, and have the added benefit of slipping over a person’s wrist, for the ultimate in portability. They can be tremendously useful devices.
Despite the benefits smartwatches offer, and the fact that carriers like T-Mobile are beginning to offer data plans specifically tailored for their use, it’s true that smartwatches aren’t for everyone. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a wearable band out there for you. We are, of course, talking about fitness trackers.
All you need to know about the popularity of fitness trackers is that FitBit sells more wearable bands than Apple does smartwatches. That’s no small feat, given Apple’s dominance in so many product categories. Based on all appearances, it would seem that the wearable fitness band is here to stay. Much of this success can likely be attributed to purity of concept. Whereas smartwatches aim to do much of what a smartphone can do, but in a wearable package, fitness trackers keep things simple – you slide them on your wrist (or clip them onto your clothes) and monitor your daily physical activity. It really is that simple, and it turns out that this relationship is one people understand.
Though impressive, smartwatches still need to prove that they’re not redundant. Fitness trackers, by doing one thing, and doing it well, seem to have clarity of purpose on their side. If you don’t have a fitness tracker or wearable band yourself, the odds are good that you know someone (or several people) that does. Is the same true for the Apple Watch or Samsung’s collection of smartwatches? Bands like the FitBit allow people to track their physical activity with more detail and precision than ever before, and for that reason, have carved out a clear position in the marketplace. People like jogging. So far, the jury is still out on whether or not people like talking into their wrist watch.
VR, Augmented Glasses & More
Google Glass never quite caught on and it’s anyone’s guess whether or not Oculus Rift will catch on as a gaming platform (though the company certainly has high hopes). There exists the chance that both of these platforms could be reborn as enterprise solutions if they fail to ignite a spark within the consumer marketplace, of course, but again, the future is uncertain at this point. And this is because not all wearable applications make it into the hands of consumers.
What wearable technology can be and what it ends up being are often two different things. Consumer products don’t follow the same rules as business or enterprise products – it doesn’t matter if they are objectively good or not, it only matters that there is a consumer demand. And as Google Glass showed, sometimes there isn’t one. Given no restrictions, wearable technology could take many forms in the near future. Will we actually see these devices on the shelf at our local retailer though? Ultimately, that depends on people like you.
Do you want eyeglasses that allow you to access the Internet and take photographs? Do you want a watch that you can make phone calls from and check email? Manufacturers of wearable technology would love to know the answers to these questions!
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