Wearable Tech Evolving Toward the Internet of Things

NOTE: This article first appeared in 2013

Wearable tech took on the mainstream spotlight when Google introduced Google Glass, but it sure has been around longer than that. According to a Gigaom article the very first wearable tech items were corrective lenses and watches. Much later, activity trackers and smartwatches entered the picture. After that, wearable tech diversified to include optics, watches, and yes, even clothing. And the market is exploding.

In 2012, Berg Insight reported, there were more than 8.3 million wearable tech devices that were sold. That number is set to multiply eight-fold by 2017, where an estimated 64 million wearable tech devices would be sold. Juniper Research pretty much says the same thing, predicting that wearable technology would be a $19-billion industry in just five years. Juniper also predicts that $1.4 billion worth of wearable devices are selling in 2013.

But the nature of that tech is changing, becoming part of the IoT. Berg Insight has predicted that from being just the smartphone accessories that they are now, most wearable tech would be stand-alone pieces that can have their own apps and maybe could even place a call even without a smartphone. Already, we are seeing carriers like AT&T come up with their own IoT strategies for wearable tech.

Take the case of the FiLIP smartwatch from AT&T (reported on in Rich’s blog, Watch Challenges Definitions of the Internet of Things). This smartwatch for children stores five telephone numbers that the child can call. It is not paired with any smartphone, but connects directly to AT&T’s cellular network. But it’s more than a phone; it has elements of an IoT asset tracking device. If the child is lost, parents can track them using a combination of WiFi, GSM location, and GPS. Parents could also specify safety zones on a map. If the child goes out of the safety zone, a mobile app would instantly alert the parent.

This shift in wearable tech’s nature makes this a great time for IoT developers to jump into the wearable tech market. The technology is rather new and the applications, and opportunities, are limitless. Unlike the crowded mobile app environments, you have a new industry where apps are still hard to come by.

You can begin looking at ideas that fit a certain kind of tech. For example, the FiLIP smartwatch would benefit having more apps that are geared for kids or their parents. You also need to take into consideration the proposed device’s target market and use. Is it for the general public or is it geared towards certain people? If you know who your market is, then you can easily discern what types of apps to develop.

Like in mobile phones, it is important that you focus on user experience when it comes to wearable tech. Remember that, for now, wearable tech is not as full-featured as smartphones and tablets and it usually has small screen if any at all. So, you should design according to the device’s limitations. New functionality should always be front and center, along with what your app can do.

The mindset to adopt is not how you could automate things or how to become more efficient, but how to incorporate the user app into the design. Sometimes, your app is the tech in wearable tech, so stop thinking of your app, software, or functionality as simply an add-on!

Another wearable tech avenue to consider is catering to business owners and marketers. Already, marketers are looking at data gathered by the sensors on these wearable devices to find out more about their markets. These data could help them know just what kind of lifestyle and habits a wearer has, as well as the user’s location. This kind of data creates an opportunity for marketers to easily engage their customers.

The IoT and wearable tech are an extremely uncanny fit. You could say that these were made for each other, with both relying on wireless connectivity and low power components. So it is not too far to go to move wearable tech into the IoT. All you need is a great idea and to focus on user experience.

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