Everyone is talking about wearables. Companies like Fitbit or Jawbone defined the term and grew a lot during the last years. Even more companies are joining that club currently. It’s fun using these products, especially from a tech point of view. So, I was quite confused that some friends told me they own one of these fitness trackers, but don’t use it anymore.
That somehow doesn’t fit: Everyone is fascinated by these devices, but people loose interest after some time using it. The main reason for that is probably that there is not yet a real use case for consumer wearables. At least up-to-date products are mainly more high-tech toys, people enjoy playing with it but don’t see a purpose in the long run.
Read more: 5 Things You Must Consider Before Making a Wearable
Wearable devices have been out there for long. In a broader definition, every device that is wearable like diabetes tracker or hearing aids could be regarded similarly. So, what is it, these mystified wearables everyone is talking about? There are several defining points to what is a wearable besides being worn on the body: (1) it’s connected to the cloud (2) it may use machine learning (3) it’s unobtrusive.
So, since the introduction of Bluetooth Low Energy in 2010, the technology is there. But what should we do now?
First on the mid-term: Think of wearables a bit more general. There are a lot of products out there that got developed around a real use case. Think of hearing aids. The first hearing aids have been there in the 19th century, basically a horn-like tube. Since the end of the 19th century we have electric hearing aids and in the last decade they mainly became digital regarding the signal processing. But it’s still old technology. By bringing new mobile technology (think of connectivity, machine learning, empowerment of the user), hearing aids will take the next step to become even more useful and easy to use for the user. That’s what Mimi is doing (Disclaimer: I co-founded Mimi and am working there).
The same applies for all devices that people really depend on. By combining new technology and old use cases, you can build actually useful devices and proper businesses. Something similar happens in the industry under the term industry 4.0, but that post is focusing on consumer tech.
In the long-term, it becomes even more interesting. Currently we use smartphones to control our smart home, browse the internet and get information. Soon it might be supported by smart watches. But it’s still not very convenient. You’re having tons of apps for all the different services and you have to put your smartphones out of the pocket. How do you control your car and your home in ten years? Wearables will most likely be involved. And, even if the control devices are not worn on the body, it will use similar technologies.
Wrapping up, I see three phases of wearables. The first phase is about exploring wearables and learning what they can actually be used for. That’s about all the Jawbones out there. The second phase is about transforming traditional industries (like hearing aids). That phase just started. The third phase will mainly be about how we actually interact with computers and information in a decade or so. Today we have smartphones and smartwatches. What do we have in ten years?