Welcome to the world of wearables

While folks came to Barcelona to show off phone stuff, it was the Bright Shiny Objects Syndrome that swept over the masses.

If you weren’t careful, you might have missed that Samsung introduced an awesome new smartphone at MWC (Mobile World Congress).

A few others introduced some very excellent smartphones, but Samsung had come to Barcelona to play.

O.K., technically, it’s a phablet – larger than a smartphone, smaller than a tablet – but it was awesome.

True, a few experts said phablets would fail miserably because no one would want to carry such a big stupid thing around to use for just everything.

Someone forgot to tell those experts that The Vision Council says more than 75 per cent of Americans need some sort of vision correction and reading the small screen isn’t that easy.

Even though Tim Cook wears glasses, the rumors are flying that he’s going to stick with a “standard size” iPhone this time around.

He does have to protect their three product category offerings and Apple fans have a new love child – the OTT (Over The Top) iTV which is a $1B product in a category that is going to be even bigger.

And Tim isn’t worried because the Galaxy S5 is about the same as the S4 even with the freebies wrapped around it!

Despite the advances, everyone was going ga-ga or ugh over the blistering array of wearables.

Even though they are barely in their infancy, this – according to a horde of industry analysts – is where the next gazillion is going to be made.

Every day, there was a new set of projections and by the end of the show it was going to be a $70 B market by 2024 (that’s far enough in the future that no one will remember the number). We’re having a serious Gartner’s Hype Cycle but that doesn’t stop spokespersons from saying their wearable is going to have hockey stick acceptance.

The big first category everyone is in is the wellness category.

You know, wear it and you’ll lose weight, gain muscle, have more stamina and achieve Adonis or Cleopatra status … BAM!!

So we did some informal research:

  • Spent a Saturday at the club checking out 150 people and four had a Fitbit Flex or similar wearable;
  • Spent the following day at a large mall in the area in the fatfood court. Saw more than 50 of the brightly colored bands on people they really weren’t helping; and
  • Talked to a lady who received a fitness band for Christmas. It hangs on the treadmill she also uses to hang clothes on.

Second Generation – Samsung not only introduced new families of smartphones and phablets, they proudly showed the world how much they had improved their wrist wearables. As long as you keep buying, they’ll keep making ‘em better.

Wearables will be a new and energetic category and it’s what the industry needs to stimulate sales because TVs, desktop/laptop PCs, printers and even smartphones have leveled off when it comes to sales, even though engineers keep loading them up with more and more goodies.

Right now, they’re good enough and we’re hard pressed to motivate people to ditch stuff that works pretty well for something with a few more bells and whistles.

Since you’re not doing your part, the industry has no choice to create a new family of products, develop new markets and make you realize what you’ve been missing out on.

New Category

Don’t get me wrong, wearables will be big – really big – just not what you’re getting excited about today.

Deep in their “do no harm” soul, even Google realizes that because hey, they heard what Billy McMahon said in Internship which was shot on their campus last year, “No one wears a watch anymore.”

Folks made the smartphone (and phablet) too good and developers keep giving you better and better apps so you go into withdrawals if it’s outta’ sight or outta’ reach.

One Device – Today’s smartphone is the one device almost everyone has with them all of the time to stay in touch with the world around them. That’s why the initial families of wearables send news/alerts to your phone rather than force you to learn new habits.

That’s probably why the first wearables connect to your smartphone to give you “information.”

But that’s going to be tough as Bob O’Donnell, chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research, noted that changing the size of the smartphone (phablet) was going to have a major impact on all areas – computers, smartphones and yes, the early wearables.

That doesn’t require you to change your habits like eating healthy food and exercising regularly.

You know, the things you swear to gawd you’re going to do every New Years Eve.

Total Glasshole

Google started it a while back with Google Glass but they have a ways to go. That’s probably why they issued guidelines on how not to be a pretentious “glasshole.”  You might get beaten up because you’re spying on someone or you could get rousted by the FBI for stealing a movie in a theater.

Eyes of the Beholder – I don’t care how attractive a Google Glass wearer is; admit it, the sight sorta’ creeps you out. You’re not sure if they’re watching a video, checking out your background or searching for their own identity.

There are actually some intriguing potentials for Glass-like products in law enforcement, military, service/support, healthcare/surgery and industrial applications; but admit it, they aren’t as fun to talk about as wearing your Google Glass in public.

There are thousands of niche markets and niche products that will use the technology and will be very profitable for firms and beneficial for the areas they serve.

Don’t Get Wet – Forecasters see the emerging market for personal wearables on virtually every part of your person. You can monitor, but so can they. Think about it, when you go to bed at night you can plug yourself in for a recharge just like you do your car.

But that kind of stuff is dull (except if you work in that area) and it’s more exciting to envision Jupiter Research’s view of everyone wearing a device.

Yep, it’s easy to see that in no time at all smartwatches, glasses and other stuff will be a $19B market. Actually, that resonates better in Cisco’s Chambers IoE (Internet of Everything).

Anything, Everything

Wearable technology right now means so many different things it doesn’t mean anything.

The noise right now is focused on gadgets or as TECHnalysis’ O’Donnell speculated, the announcements could easily outnumber shipments.

All Over the Chart – Industry analysts everywhere were quick to show they were on top of the situation and could see the future with wearable projects for the years ahead that ranged from cautious optimism to unabashed gushing.

Of course, that doesn’t stop industry experts from giving you some real mouthwatering projections for 2018–or better yet, 2024!

Wearable technology isn’t the gimmick stuff you see today, even though you can expect to see a herd of startups grabbing mindboggling sums of money from MBA VCs (venture capitalists).

The real potential applications and benefits will emerge quietly, with little or no fanfare.

More than Bling – The world of wearables will look a lot different from the stuff you see, buy, show off and brag about today and set aside tomorrow. There are hundreds/thousands of serious applications for the technology that will be felt in almost every market segment.

Apple, Samsung and the firms that are already heavily involved in the healthcare industry are camped out on the FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration) doorsteps to develop wearables for our increasingly aging society (globally) that will feature biometric sensors that can monitor … everything.

It can quickly change the entire health reporting/response/care area.

Public safety – all first responders – will be changed as officers wear modified glasses that tap into police records in near real-time and build blueprints that can be sent to the responder so he/she can properly assess situations.

Other wearable items can monitor the individual to determining how the individual is handling the developing situation and even monitor his/her equipment.

A Natural

While infotainment wearables get kids hearts fluttering, there are some naturals that can be quickly developed that will have widespread appeal.

Intel introduced their Smart Onesie, an all-enveloping baby monitor that got an “oh isn’t that cute reaction” but will sell to every concerned mom.

The OhMiBod vibrating underpants got a wet reception but dads will snap them up to keep the kids’ buns dry.

Identification and tracking wearables are something every parent will invest in, considering the exposure to violence youngsters encounter everywhere.

And what pet owner wouldn’t cough up $100 +/- to make certain his/her dog or cat followed a rigorous fitness regime?

As for me, I’m going to bypass all the gadgets and plug in direct.

A little operation and BAM!!! I’ll be totally plugged into the iNet.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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