Wearables are one of the hottest commodities on the market today. Soon tablets and smartphones will be a thing of the past. All that technology will migrate onto or even into our bodies.
Why are wearables so attractive? Well, physically of course they free up our hands and make us look cool. But the real value comes from the software embedded in those glasses, smartwatches and clothes. Software that collects, connects, integrates, and personalizes information to help us better interpret our world and live more productively.
Some advantages are obvious. Wearables allow us to access data from anywhere anytime without having to stop and pull out our smart device or walk over to a desk and open up a laptop.
Virgin Atlantic showed us just such a case scenario when it recently tried out Google Glass. Using Glass, Virgin’s staff was able to check in first-class passengers as they arrived at the terminal without having to be at a stationary computer.
Another obvious application for wearables is in sports. Nobody wants to carry a physical object when running, or stop what they’re doing to crunch numbers.
And while most wearables on the market today are pretty clumsy looking, companies are working hard to ungeekify their products.
Last week Google announced a partnership with Luxottica, a luxury and sports eyewear manufacturer whose portfolio includes Ray-Ban, Oakley, Vogue-Eyewear, and Oliver Peoples.
Fitbit, which manufactures activity trackers, recently joined forces with fashion brand Tory Burch. The new partnership will result in a collection of smart accessories including bracelets, pendants and wristbands to be sold by both Fitbit and Tory Burch.
Companies like Fitbit are tapping into more than just cool tech for fitness fanatics; many of its customers are average office workers and couch potatoes looking for a convenient way to record and document their physical activity.
The data Fitbit collects helps anyone interpret, validate and share their daily activity with others. It offers a way to quantify the day, ourselves and others through the use of data.
Fitness and wellness wearables is a hugely competitive market, but the growth potential is fantastic.
According to ABI Research, the total number of wearable devices with fitness and wellness applications alone will grow to 93 million in 2017; it also predicts that revenue from sports and wellness mobile apps will be $341 million in 2016. So while the fitness market was once just for sports enthusiasts, it is now increasingly penetrating the mainstream consumer market.
It’s that software, in the form of sensors and apps, embedded in wearables that’s really transforming the way we as consumers live our lives, and the way manufacturers are conceiving products and creating new opportunities for themselves.
Nike, for instance, with its FuelBand, shoe sensors, and other smart devices, has transformed itself practically overnight from an apparel manufacturer to a wellness app store.
When a product can connect and communicate with its surroundings, with other products, and with us via the Internet of Things (IoT), the possibilities become endless. Your smartwatch could connect to your home appliances, perhaps via Google Nest.
And that pill you just swallowed? It’s really a tiny microprocessor, battery, sensor, and wireless transceiver that can monitor your ulcer and administer drugs when necessary without you ever having to visit the doctor’s office.
Sound futuristic? Not really. Philips is working on just such a pill right now.
Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images