It seems a revolution that is pending is wearable technology. There are a lot of devices available today on the market, but though they offer a lot of functionality they just do not seem to have hit the mark. By that I mean, even though many people have gadgets we do not seem to have the “home run” gadget that everyone has to have. Since we have just come through the holidays it seems an appropriate time to review as well as think of what needs to be done to improve. Right now there are a lot of different devices and categories to consider. From communication type devices, health and fitness, music, etc..Many are good with many features and many are not so good and in many cases they are just plain ugly.
Over ten years ago Microsoft did its initial foray into “wearable” tech, it just was not called that because what they developed was a watch. Namely the SPOT watch. When you saw it, you knew what it was because it was B-I-G. It was interesting in that it used FM frequency to transmit information. It provided the basics like time and weather. It was not something you wanted to be seen wearing. In time, and not a very long time, it simply faded away. That was a big mistake that Microsoft made with SPOT, by simply giving up. Microsoft went a decade where it seemed to focus on short-term revenues verses long-term vision. Now we seem to have a number of watches available or coming available from Samsung and Apple’s much-anticipated iWatch. Rather than following had Microsoft stuck with the SPOT and tweaked and modified they could have been leading by now.
Google has developed Google Glass which is cool and in some places banned. Seattle’s 5 Point Cafe has a sign that says Google Glass not allowed within premise. I recently had an excellent lunch with beer there, great American Bar food (Check out link I provided). The technology behind Google Glass is cool, When I am in a new and unfamiliar environment as I see things I will be able to quickly browse and get information to have readily available. Without having to touch a screen or log onto a machine. It is still early and the cost of owning a pair of Google Glasses is cost prohibitive, over $1000, But as the fundamental economic principle of economies of scale dictates as adoption grows cost begins to decrease. Long term I can see this concept improving and as cost comes down more people will see the benefits, the one area I am not sure is will the masses adopt this technology?
Health and fitness has been a great place for wearable technology. Tracking our steps and monitoring are heart rate. This is an area where we could receive huge positive social impact. We can monitor how active we are, are heart rates, what we eat etc…this will be invaluable info to the individual and the insurance companies who charge us. It could also help contribute to lower health care costs. I supported President Obama’s Affordable Health Care act, but have always maintained this is a necessary interim step until technology will take us to a place where we all will have truly affordable health care. Where we manage our own health care, without having to be mired in reading and filling out lengthy insurance forms and having to file claims.
One thing that can get lost in all this geekdom is too often gadgets try to do too much. It was like this before the iPhone. The ideas and markets the iPhone created were not new, they were accessible. Developers had a single platform to write to. To get applications and low or no cost was a simple click of the button. With some of the gadgets today be it fitbit or the new Microsoft band they suffer from trying to do things across multiple devices or simply trying to provide too much information. In the end they don’t do any of it that well.
A second thing that gets lost is, and in particular I will pick on the latest watch trend. They need to look sleek and elegant. The Rolex watch will not go away. Through its history it has attained status. Do the watches need to be this grand? No but there is an element of design that needs to take place. This is an area that Apple has done really well, just read up on Apple legend Jony Ives. It is not enough to have great functionality, there needs to be an emotional aspect to what you wear. A feeling of self-worth, self-confidence. For the past ten years we have seen technology evolve rapidly beyond the world of geeks as a younger generation has grown up with technology and has increasingly higher demands of what technology can and should provide.
Right now in wearable we are still in an area of vision before reality. In a lot of ways we are where the dotcom era was at the turn of the century. The ideas and concepts were available but as an industry we did not have the infrastructure yet necessary to support where we wanted to go. Wearable’s are somewhat in the same place and still have a few drawbacks. They still tend to try to do too much and are bulky and awkward in appearance. Not yet having a strong “eye” appeal. When I read about some devices I am still taken a bit back by battery life where a watch can only last 24 or 48 hours before you need to charge it. My old watches lasted a year. However the battery problem is one that has plagued us for years, so this is just a piece in a much larger problem. If we solve power in the coming years it will not only revolutionize wearable technologies but will revolutionize mankind.
Good Night And Good Luck
Hans Henrik Hoffmann January 6, 2015