2015: Truly the year of wearable tech?
One year ago, pundits declared that we were entering the so-called Year of Wearable Technology. Here at Wearable Tech Watch, we’d say these predictions were not wrong, but just a year early, as 2015 will truly be the YoWT.
Several factors will take wearables closer to the mainstream this year – starting at CES, the annual tech-fest in Las Vegas, which kicks off in a week’s time. Wearables already featured prominently in 2014, and at 2015’s show, this trend will continue.
What’s more, we think the wearables trend in 2015 will be headed by smartwatches, which will finally hit their stride and start to gain market acceptance.
Although this may have seemed unlikely even a few months back, in recent months smartwatches have finally moved out of their position as the ugly sister of smart wristbands, thanks to the arrival of a new generation of sleeker, less geeky models. You can expect a glut of new smartwatches to make their debut at CES 2015.
The Apple Watch will finally arrive
Of course Apple is one of the other driving factors in taking smartwatches mainstream in 2015. Its Watch is due this spring, and love or hate Apple, you cannot deny that when it enters a market space, it takes the technology to the masses.
The Apple Watch will be no exception – despite pre-sales concerns about its battery life requiring a daily charge. In an era when smartphones can’t last a day of solid use without extra juice, we don’t think this will be quite as much of a biggie as the naysayers make out.
However, brace yourself for a spring filled with the breathless gasps of adulation as people discover it’s possible to use their Apple Watch to read their messages, scroll through the latest Tweets and even tell the time.
The smartwatch segment is also dividing into three – the mainstream “do everything” models, the crossover “am I a smartwatch or am I a smart wristband” devices with OLED displays, such as the Samsung Galaxy Gear Fit, and a new sub-category of smartwatches with analog faces, such as the crowd-funded GEAK watch and French firm Withings’ Activité – which should finally ship in mass numbers in 2015.
Tethering will be something that gets talked about more, as people realize their Apple Watch isn’t so smart when outside the range of a connected phone. With very few exceptions, smartwatches rely on a tether to a smartphone as their gateway to the internet. No connection, and your smartwatch is as dumb as a $9.99 digital watch on sale at the local gas station.
Meanwhile the coming year will see further discounts on smart wristbands. This will apply even to wristbands from former technology leaders such as Jawbone, whose two-year-old second-generation UP can now be found for $50 or less.
The same steep discounts apply to the Sony SmartBand. Sony took a brave and innovative approach with its “life logging” concept, but its entry-level SWR10 SmartBand is now on sale for the same price as the UP. Fitbit is still hanging on to the $99.99 price tag for its Flex but this surely won’t last any longer than the winter snow in the northern hemisphere.
In 2015, you’ll also hear a lot more about smart clothing. So far there’s been a “so what” reaction from the market towards pullovers fitted with gimmicky LEDs and the like.
In 2015 we’ll see more useful smart clothing, in line with the Sensoria Fitness range, thanks to the continued development of smart sensor textiles from firms like New Zealand-based start-up Footfalls and Heartbeats.
Meanwhile, in terms of consumer acceptance, we think 2015 will be another tough year for smart eyewear like Google Glass. In business, especially in environments where hands-free is important, such as oil rig workers or stock pickers in warehouses, we think heads-up displays and smart sensors will continue to drive efficiency.
Crowd-funding for wearable start-ups
2015 will be another big year for crowd-funded wearable start-ups, as this now seems to be the standard path for an initial raise. Crowd funding campaigns also help generate a lot of publicity for projects that otherwise might struggle to create mass market awareness. Top crowd-funding sites to find and support new ventures in wearables include Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Pozible.
Wearables and the IoT
During 2014 there’s been much media excitement about the IoT, or the Internet of Things. Wearable devices such as smart wristbands are a good example of the IoT – which connects devices equipped with sensors to gather information that was previously out of reach – such as my daily step count.
Although this information might seem meaningless by itself, when it’s put together with the step counts of a million other people, then with the right technology you can start to identify trends, and with trends come opportunities.
The IoT means the connection of billions more devices to the internet – such as the Philips Hue range of smart lightbulbs, power sockets from firms like Insteon that can be turned on and off via a browser interface, from anywhere in the world, and left-field devices such as jet engines, which apparently generate 20 terabytes of information per engine every hour of flight, according to statistics from the data analytics firm Teradata.
During 2015, we’ll see the emergence of firms that are able to help wearables vendors monetize this information – so as a consumer, if you’re concerned about your privacy, think before you sync.
Extra intelligence for sports
We will also seen the more mainstream adoption of smart devices to help track, analyze and suggest performance improvements in sports.
Companies such as FieldWiz are already on the market with technology that tracks individual players’ performance, then puts all the information together to build up a bigger picture of an entire team’s strengths and weaknesses. This information is called “actionable analytics”.
It’s impressive enough – even more so when you realize this is being done using smartphones, not supercomputers.
All said, we think 2015 is going to be an exciting year for wearables.
Thanks for reading Wearable Tech Watch in 2014 and see you next year!