Wearable Technology: Waiting for the bloom

It used to be the sci-fi enthusiasts dream scenarios – a future where communicators are worn, information is seamlessly delivered on all surfaces, learning is interactive.

Looking around, it definitely feels like a future that existed in fiction not so long ago is very much around us today. A major chunk of this change has been driven by the desire of the people to have access to better options: and yet, there is a feeling – a feeling that the true bloom is yet to happen.

Where are wearables today vis-s-vis IoT enabled devices? We look around and feel that while there is a huge possibility it has not yet been realised. Read on as we present our views.

It’s not function, it’s fashion
A great wearable is functionally advanced, that is one assured trait of these new comers; yet how many of them create an aesthetic bond? A device that is seen to be almost an extension of the person should accommodate some of the individuals tastes. When Glass came out it was the height of wearable computing but there were reams of print on how the device itself evoked an emotional response. Apple, Samsung and a host of others have their wearables line but none have etched themselves into the psyches of the public like their other devices. Companies, big and small, are now looking at the fashion element. The latest effort from Fitbit, looking at the design of Alta, is indicative of the way things will be. To make it usable, intelligent design is key.

The price is right – Or Is It?
Advances in manufacturing processes, 3D printing processes and API technology have pushed the prices of wearables down. True strength will be contributed to the wearables ecosystem only when each unit starts interacting with each other seamlessly. As the numbers increase social value will bring down the costs. Even early adopters are part of this ecosystem where their numbers push for faster advances. The more we get to investigate and understand these systems the faster they all link up. Healthcare, security, transport and a hundred other daily activities stand to benefit. We are poised at that point where a slight nudge with the right prices will yield massive benefits for the common man.

Easy access to information
A detail that seems inconsequential at first but plays a massive role in the adoption of IoT devices is what happens to the information. Today the user is presented with more options to consume and interact, yet it still remains to be seen if information has been genuinely made available by the wearable or if it is just replicated. Projects abound on the web taking a fresh look at what is already around – the only limitation in place is imagination. By channeling information to the right points the entire system can be restructured. The story of smart rings provides a riveting read.

Smartron is constantly looking to make things better, to engineer a better system. The way forward is to innovate and offer an idea for consumption not just a device. Our efforts focus on melding these insights into our work. While this is not an exhaustive list, these are pressure points that will effect a massive change. What do you think? Do tell us if there is an angle to this development that you have an eye on. Be a part of the discussion.

2 Likes

One of the approaches taken for wearable design has been to imitate traditional forms like the wrist watch. The assumption could be that familiar forms will quicken adoption.
Often the reverse is the case.
A new way of communicating and even living possibly needs a radical breakaway design.
A device like no other needs to look like nothing seen before!
Maybe that’s what the bloom is waiting for!

Taking lead from Steve Jobs, he intentionally tried technology to look, feel and behave like real life objects. Like, skeuomorphism, Multi touch, voice command, etc. He did it, so that people see technology as a extension of real world and not all together a different virtual world… The devices are just a bridge between humans and technology, the more natural the bridge is, more and more people would like to cross over…

It feels like the Internet of Things concept has been around for a long time. I see a lot of work put in by the big companies but doesn’t the change have to come on a bigger level?

@Akshara
True. People have been talking about the devices getting onto the internet for a long time. The fact is that the huge ecosystems that needed to come in, was a result of many players going forward in their separate directions. It is like a power grid: national and independent players contribute. Variations are accommodated, but all the grids work together where connected. Another example from the recent past is the mobile phone - what was once a novelty is today ubiquitous. Once the systems were in place the explosion followed. All those elements are in place for the IoT revolution. The outcomes will be radical. No one thought of the changes in photography and videography when they put a camera on a phone. Like @Renegade says it is the one idea that brings about a huge cross over.

@SS The one change factor is what we strive for. Tech has always look at productive disruption.

The positioning of wearable devices have been vague, overlapping and often confusing. Wearables like fitbit found success because they had positioned it as a complementary device to phone and focused on providing data related to fitness/health. On the other hand, smart watches often conflict with phones in terms of functionality with terrible battery life and trying to replace the legacy brands like Tag Heuer, Rolex, Tissot, Longiness etc. That’s a long shot. Even Apple iwatch couldn’t do that. Watch is such a personal and fashion statement for many. So, while wearables have huge upside, finding the right usage model and positioning is the key.

It’s really interesting that the wearables are trying to
become a fashion statement. But think about a person who wears his stylish
fitness band/ smart watch in a party just for show off. That’s meaning less and
probably he/ she will replace it with a more costly and fashionable traditional
watch in the near future because their primary concern wasn’t the functionality
of that device.

It’s very important that the device should make its owner
feel like wearing it on day to day basis (This indicates that it should be good
looking also. Look at the Nixon smart watch
(http://www.nixon.com/us/en/mens-smart) or the Fenix 3 from Garmin. Many of my
friends commented that my Apple watch looks like a kids watch/ ladies one.
Thank god, I got it as a gift)). This will be only possible if it’s able to
create a positive result in their day to day life (sometime without them
realizing it), right from the day one. Else it is more like the owner will
forget it and will make him feel like why I invested money on this device!
Remember everyone wants to wear a watch because they want to know the time.
And, this is user’s requirement and not manufacturer’s. This also indicates
that the wearable needs to have an always on time display.

Most of the fitness trackers and smart watches gives
extensive analysis of its user’s day to day activities. But do this
manufacturer ever thought how many of these users will actually check it? We
can’t expect a common person or a farmer going for a fitness tracker in the
near future. Primarily because they don’t want to invest or they don’t actually
requires it. But think about regular office going working class person with his/hers
hanging cheeks and ever bulging tummies (A gift every company give to their
workers). They don’t want to know how many steps they have taken in a day. But
they certainly want to have a healthy body. Sometimes they want all these without
even putting an extra effort. Can you make them look away from their computer
monitors regularly? Can you help them to re hydrate at regular intervals? Can
you help them to stand at regular intervals (Apple watch do this)? All you want
is a smart device which can remind the user with a slight tap on their hand/ an
audible beep. All this can be achieved without bothering the user much (eg: -
If the device demands the user to input the quantity of water he just consumed,
certainly he will hesitate to do that) in this way the device could help the
user to have a better and healthy life even without bothering them much. If you
talk to an expert doctor or a fitness expert, there will be many things that a
common person ignores in his day to day life and hence finally ends up with bad
health. A smart device can actually force them to a healthy life without even
letting them know about it! Remember,
not everyone wants to be a body builder at the end of the day.

Another question is that whether these device can bring an
immediate result? If yes people would tend to continue use that. Also, I
seriously doubt whether some wants to talk though their smart watch. Instead
they just want to have some notifications, controlling functions and fitness/ wellbeing
tracking.

I believe that a fashionable stuff is something everyone
wants to change every season or even every day. Nothing would get affected
except their style quotient. And a smart wearable should be something they
needs on day to day basis, helping them to have an easy, healthy and happier
life.

Very good points. The other issue is that users are dumped with lot of raw data constantly through the wearables which wears down people eventually. we should rather be providing a nice synthesized report once a month or so unless there is a big red flag. Wearbales shouldn’t try to replace phone but rather be complementary in a non-invasive way

True!. It seems like ABC sensors + a heart rate monitor are kind of mandatory for these kind of wearable. That means the system will certainly have a lot of data to offer. Hence the companion app should be powerful enough so that users can select what they want (Freedom to choose which data needs to be collected, display customization etc). Look at the Garmin Fenix 3. It has everything… looks like a beautiful traditional watch (of course its for gentle man!), always on display (Chroma display… i think it just works fine, no fancy), very good battery life, etc… it has a lot of sensors and also dumps a lot of data… primarily because its targeting the fitness/ adventure guys. But, I think it offers a lot of customization possibilities (much more than Apple watch). And it has just few MBs of memory! It handles the notifications also well. I seriously believe that’s the right direction for wearable as far as the smart watch/ fitness tracker segments are concerned.

True. While it is not fair to say that the field is nascent, there is a long way for us to go yet.

In fact with the environment changing at the pace it does, its only a matter of thought processes syncing up with data.

It is always a brave new world out there.

Great.