Oct 22, 2013
Wearable Tech: 5 Obstacles to Going Mass Market
Oct 22, 2013
Wearable technology is on the path to ubiquity. Devices like Google Glass, Samsung Galaxy Gear and even the rumored Apple iWatch are just the tip of the iceberg.
Every day, companies and engineers are dreaming up the next big thing.
How quickly wearables become a part of our daily lives will depend on how quickly we can address the obstacles that are still keeping the technology from mass marketization. Here are the top five as I see them:
Google Glass alone costs $1,500 and costly wearable products can alienate even early electronics adopters. If you want your product to have mass appeal, you must create an affordable device. This can only be accomplished by rethinking the manufacturing process to encourage developers to experiment with the biggest cost-driving components of wearables: display, energy and connectivity to name a few.
It's not convenient to take off your wearable device in the middle of the day and plug it in for charging. Wireless technology would allow charging wearable devices over long distances, as opposed plugging them into a stationary power source.
Similarly, energy harvesting would allow generation of power through movement or thermal energy. Power solutions are critical to making wearable technology feel like a natural, consistent part of our lives.
There is a high level of confusion over which tasks are best suited for existing devices versus which are best suited for new wearable devices. Smart watches are an example of this limitation. For many, checking email or answering calls on a 1.5-inch watch face is not nearly as appealing as a 5-inch screen on a smartphone.
The incentive for using wearable technology lies in our perception of it. Wearable technology needs to solve problems and perform tasks not already solved by the dozens of larger, faster and proven devices in existence.
The proposed functionality of Google Glass is intriguing, but how well does it work on a practical, day-to-day basis? Messaging friends, taking pictures and sending emails all through voice command is appealing, but can these devices perform under the stress of frequent, daily use?
The issues of functionality are mostly ones that can only be resolved with time. For big wearable players, closing the disparity between intention and execution is a matter of ironing out the bugs in their products.
Wearables will become mainstream only if they are consumed in the same way as clothing. NFC (near field communications) rings, GPS sensor shirts and FLORA umbrellas must be thought about in the same way as regular jewelry, clothing and rain gear. Aesthetics must be a determining component in the design of wearables to encourage this pattern of mass market consumption.
To bring together performance and design we must encourage the engineering market to develop pro solutions, as well as the "maker" movement to develop more accessible, unobtrusive designs using their aesthetic eye.
Despite heavy-hitters like Apple and Google dominating technology news, wearables are not solely for the elite. There are involvement opportunities for all types of enterprises, and there are devices for all types of consumers and lifestyles. It's only a matter of finding the right ones.
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