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Watch out – wearables are coming (sic)

Mobile computing: Wearables
By Martin (the geek) Dower.

Pebble shipped over 350,000 smartwatches in 2013. This year they could pass the 1m mark.

Screen Shot 2014-04-24 at 17.23.49Who cares really? The market is tiny when you consider 1,000,000,000 smartphones were shipped last year so wearables aren’t even on the radar.

Except, they are. And they’re sneaking in via all sorts of avenues, if you consider a wearable as being any body-borne computing device.

/OT: The worlds first wearable was in the 1600 which saw the introduction of a fully functional abacus on a ring, which could be used while it was being worn.

It’s still early days, but you may recall that prior to 2008 there was no appreciable smartphone market. In fact in 2006 just 70m smartphone shipped and Nokia owned half of that market, so it’s fair to say that the world moves with lightning speed. Want to get caught out again in a couple of years?

Wearable, WTF are they?

Come in different flavours, sizes and senses (more on this later) and although the technical definition of wearables is still not defined it could include:

  • Wrist : Watches
  • Wrist : Bangles & bracelets
  • Head : Ear-phones
  • Head : Straps and caps
  • Head : Glasses and contacts
  • Finger : Rings and chips
  • Misc : Buttons, tabs, tiles

The wrist market has gone first, it replaces the (recently) redundant analogue/digital watch with a connected device that talks to your smartphone. It’s already got a flourishing app market and gaining some traction due to low cost (less than £150) and long battery life (about a week).

I’ve had a Pebble for a year now (original Kickstarter) and it gets better every month. I use a golf app to give me distance to greens/flags, I use the weather app to choose when I ride my bike and the ability to see all my iPhone notifications without taking my phone from my pocket is well worth the $90 a paid!

Bracelets such as FitBit and Nike Fuel are changing the world of dieting, fitness and exercise. Again, they are cheap (sub £100) and offer great “life-style” information.

Earphones are new, and oddly probably the easiest one to crack. Having your phone communicate via sound is easy and the addition of accelerometers will greatly enhance the ability to control(shake you head to skip a track, or dump a call?).

The rest are all in development or shipping now. The common element in (most) of these items is the cost, they are going to be all sub £100, or even sub £30. This, alone, will drive adoption so expect to see a lot more people shaking their heads, whispering to themselves and tapping their wrists.

It’s going to be like an uncool version of Minority Report, where consumers may look as if they are suffering from a wide range of afflictions! Of course, when gesture computing and voice recognition/control is finally nailed we all happily exist in our own tech bubble and won’t need to talk to anyone, ever again.

I’m not overstating that this will change communication forever.

The future is coming, and a good deal faster than we’d like to admit it.
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