Do wearables have a future or they wearing thin?

Written by on February 10, 2016 in Opinion with 1 Comment

wearablesThe hype has certainly disappeared from the wearables arena. From where they were a year ago, the market seems to have turned its back on them. From the well known watches to the thread that was going to be your next smart suit, there now seems to be an echoing silence.

The flood of common sense about these devices is so big that people are actually wondering what Apple will do next. Sales of its iPhones are slowing, with the knock-on effect for its suppliers. Sales of the Apple Watch have also disappointed. What, the question seems to be, has Apple got up its sleeve, if anything? The market, always happy to complain at performances that are not exemplary, seems to think that Apple needs another iPhone to change the market’s mood.

Wearables are an interesting mixture, though. They seem to encapsulate the whole IoT arena. There are examples of very clever devices and there are examples of things that are described by normally mild-mannered men as ‘ludicrous.’ Weaving a suit out of ‘intelligent’ cloth is in the ludicrous category, at least for now. Why make a phone call by rubbing the sleeve of your suit, when you can make a phone call by pressing a button on a, er, phone.

If you ask people what they can expect to see at the ever closer Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, wearables no longer feature. Drones will be huge (and are now being chased by eagles), virtual reality and artificial intelligence will be big and we may see some actual business models emerging. Cars, driverless, connected and autonomous will be parked at every corner.

But wearables will only be found if you look pretty hard.

So, will they disappear? Will they be pronounced pointless? Will the difference between a device that you wear and a device that you carry become irrelevant? Are we, perhaps, beginning to rebel against the constant monitoring (and the implied nagging of these wearable worriers)?

Perhaps the direction for wearables will follow that taken by Google. Google Glass is a great example of what will happen, and a great example of why Google is as valuable a company as it is. Version 1 of Google Glass, was aimed (if that is the word) at an unsuspecting consumer market and was, basically, a flop. It was a laughing stock. Most other companies would have packed up and gone home. Google, however, refocused their approach and is now addressing verticals where Glass will have undisputed value. Healthcare is an obvious target. ‘Wearing’ the ability to look something up, cross-reference something or even contact a specialist while consulting with a patient seems like a sensible solution. Having an array of devices monitoring your recovery after a procedure is also on the cards, and seems sensible.

It also makes sense for wearables to be incorporated with other emerging technologies which are finding their feet. Combined with virtual reality and applied to training they could provide huge cost savings and create more efficient processes. Trouble shooting and maintenance in high risk situations such as on oil rigs, using these technologies delivers safety and remote support to tasks that were only carried out by highly skilled people.

Wearables have definitely hit a wall, or are plunging into Gartner’s trough of disillusionment but their future is not as bleak as some might predict. It will, however, be a rather different future, and in verticals where functionality is the key, and fashion is not.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alex was Founder and CEO of the Global Billing Association (GBA), a trade body focused on the communications sector. He is a sought after speaker and chairman at leading industry conferences, and is widely published in communications magazines around the world. Until it closed, he was Contributing Editor, OSS/BSS for Connected Planet. He is publisher of DisruptiveViews and previously BillingViews. .


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  1. Edgar Wilson says:

    I don’t believe consumers can carry the wearables market on their own. The greatest potential for wearables will come from institutional support–i.e., not just fitness freaks logging miles on their FitBits, but physicians endorsing, supporting, and collaborating with patients to utilize the generated data.

    Developers, in turn, must be more mindful not just of consumer interests, but the expectations and needs of these professionals legitimizing the devices.

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