Wearable technology is the next big thing in the product tech world, what was once a growing trend, is now an established market. This is a truly exciting time for both product and digital design. However, some of the early pioneers in this field seem a little rushed to the market, or suffer from being ahead of the technological curve. In some cases, such as Samsung’s ‘Galaxy Gear’, it could be argued that some of these pitfalls outweigh the overall benefits to the consumer.
‘Wearable technology’ or what we should probably describe as ‘wearable devices’ are currently attachments and additions to the powerful smartphones that sit in our pockets. Smartphones are already at a point where their true potential isn’t really being challenged; some now have specification sheets similar to high end laptops or PC’s 5 years ago. Traditional purchases of peripherals such as speakers or webcams of the early 2000’s have now turned into smartwatches or fitness wristbands of the ‘2010’s. This is a phenomenal shift, but it's still early days in the life of the wearable tech market.
There are several problems the products face which are hindering mass market adoption of the devices. Firstly, there are technological performance limitations, namely the battery life. The first generation of the ‘Samsung Galaxy Gear’ smart watch suffered from poor battery length, hindered user experience.
Secondly, there are some negative social connotations that can be associated with the wearables, such as the ‘Google Glass’. The camera is constantly filming on the device, which can cause problems with people who do not want to be filmed.
'The common theme across current ‘wearable’s’ is the aesthetic of a piece of equipment rather than that of jewellery or a fashionable garment'
Lastly, wearable tech is burdened by the current aesthetic sported by many of these devices. The common theme across current ‘wearable’s’ is the aesthetic of a piece of equipment rather than that of jewellery or a fashionable garment, which can put people off.
Putting these negative points aside, wearable devices are here to stay, and some of the current features offered are quite impressive considering this market is still relatively young.
One thing that should be mentioned when commenting on these devices is that in more than one example, the introduction of these products have been created by start-up’s such as Jawbone, and ‘Pebble’ the latter using ‘kickstarter’ to fund their initial smartwatch concept, rather than the big multi-national corporations.
'In the short term, we could see data being shared much more openly, in the same way we have moved through a photo and now video sharing phase'
The most exciting thing about wearable technology is not only what they can do now, but where this technology points to the future of ‘connected devices’. In the short term, we could see data being shared much more openly, in the same way we have moved through a photo and now video sharing phase. Once consumers overcome the social-acceptance hurdles of wearable technology, we could see the advent of mass-market data sharing, combined with pictures or video; for example a user’s longest fitness work out, or the opposite, their most calorific burger, with a picture to prove it.
In the long term, there is a current theory that we are moving towards ‘the internet of things’. It’s a loose term describing how products can be connected together to provide useful relationships and information to the user. For example, your TV may evolve to subtly incorporate your notifications from your smartphone as you watch your favourite program, or a slightly more detached connection - imagine walking to your fridge in the morning to use the milk, and it alerts you via a screen that your car needs fuel when you head out for work.
It is very exciting to think of the possibilities of how digital content can serve these products, and the relationship between devices, to provide a meaningful benefit to the consumer.
I for one am already tempted to buy a smart wristband, we just need a few million more consumers to follow suit!
This blog post was originally written by myself for Yoyo Design, the original content can be found here.