Wearable technology is, without doubt, one of the big buzzphrases of the moment. But has the ship sailed without some of our biggest tech names on board? Where are Apple, Sony and HP? Has Samsung been the only company smart enough to grab wearables and run with them, or are the others about to start playing catch up? It certainly seems that the latter is true, with several of the big players announcing (or at the very least hinting) that they’re about to enter the market. To date, consumer wearables have been dominated by the sports industry, with the Nike Fuel Band leading the charge. It seems that the more athletic you are, the more open to the concept of wearables you are!
Are Apple about to take a bite out of the market?
Everyone initially thought that it would be Apple leading the pack, but to date they have been surprisingly quiet on the wearables front. However, rumours are spreading of their imminent entrance into the wearables market, with a device that will replace the iPhone, iPod, iPad and basically everything techy that starts with the letter ‘i’. The Apple Watch is Apple focusing on what it does best – creating iconic and crowd-pleasing tech that overcomes one of the biggest problems that wearables have at the moment – looks. The Apple Watch (set to hit the market in 2015) has learned the lessons of the Gear and rather than creating a chunky, screen-on-your-wrist monster, has gone back to those flowing, aesthetically pleasing curves and slimline design. Whether its functionality will be as good as its form remains to be seen
The Internet of Things – the future of wearables?
More tangible results are being seen from Intel, who have always been at the leading edge of chip development. However, their latest development is a little off the wall even for this innovative team – smart shirts. Similar in concept to many existing ideas, the Intel smart shirt does have ‘Intel Inside’, thanks to battery-operated bio-sensors (remember to take the battery out before laundry day, though). They’re embracing the idea of the ‘Internet of Things’, where we interact much more intimately with our technological environment. From talking fridges to bio-sensor-encrusted shirts that let our doctor know if our heart-rate is elevated, the Internet of Things could be an opening for wearables to become much more integrated into our lives.
They’re also developing chip technology for the Internet of Things that could make it a ubiquitous feature of modern life. Their Quark Technology focuses not just on integrating smaller and smaller Internet-communicative technology into various wearables, but also keeping the power consumption down to a minimum too. Their Quark Technology and in particular the Intel Quark SoC X1000 demonstrates how companies are truly starting to embrace the concept of ‘Organic’ electronics, and create products that will be accepted by a public that’s still getting to grips with the idea of the Internet of Things.
How to make it easier
Apart from the ‘usual suspects’, expect much of the future innovation of wearables to come from crowd-funded companies and innovators who recognise that innovation, thinking ‘outside the box’ and, most importantly collaboration are the way forward. One company that recognised the importance of collaboration a long time ago is Plastic Logic. Their recent, award-winning collaboration with ISORG was a case in point, explained by Plastic Logic CEO Indro Mukerjee: “The collaboration with ISORG has showcased the exciting potential of combining two disruptive technologies and we plan to work together to bring new applications to market. This again underlines the real impact of plastic electronics as it starts to go mainstream in consumer markets.”
It also follows their model for collaboration and the importance it will have in the future of electronic development. Plastic Logic are innovators and development specialists, but to get a product to market you need manufacturers, distributors and marketing experts. Their collaboration with CGC to develop and bring to market a graphene display shows how by working in conjunction with a company that brings manufacturing and design to the table, a successful product can be developed that moves the industry forward as a whole.
Another company that has realized the importance of collaboration is Samsung, who have recently revisited their ‘stand-alone’ policy and have adopted a more collaborative approach to working with other developers, designers and technology experts. This is perhaps why they’re leading the current wearables revolution, and is a position that everyone (including the mighty Apple) could do well to adopt too.