Published on February 21st, 2014 | by James Smythe0
Does wearable technology have a future?
If we gave you the simple answer to that question, this would be the shortest article in history. So let’s start by agreeing that wearable technology is not merely a passing fad and does most definitely have a future. But what makes it such an important technological advance and how do we best utilise this innovative concept? Is it fad, fashion, or here to stay?
Medical and military beginnings
Wearable technology was originally developed not, as you may assume, as a fashion statement by some clever marketing agency, but for medical and military applications. In medicine, flexible plastic technology such as that developed by innovation and research experts Plastic Logic, has enabled patient monitoring to be easier, less invasive and less likely to block beds that could be better used for other patients.
The forward leaps in the medical and military sector (where wearable flexible screens inserted into the sleeves of BDUs(?) means that orders can be transmitted instantly to the soldier on the ground) have been enormous and, in the case of medical wearables, life-saving. It encourages R&D companies to keep on pushing the boundaries of what’s possible; “Plastic Logic’s flexible plastic displays are completely transformational in terms of product interaction,” explains Plastic Logic CEO Indro Mukerjee. “I am delighted that Plastic Logic can now demonstrate the far-reaching potential of the underlying technology. Our ability to create flexible, transmissive backplanes has led us not only to co-develop a flexible image sensor, but is also key to flexible OLED displays as well as unbreakable LCDs.”
So at one level, wearables have a key role to play in two of the most important aspects of our lives – our health and our defence. But what about everyday wearables?
Google Glass – dominant or doomed?
Take the one wearable that’s really got everyone jumping up and down with excitement – Google Glass. It promises us a world of Augmented Reality and enhanced interaction with our environment – you really are in ‘The Matrix’! But already the nay-sayers are claiming that Google Glass is doomed to fail because it’s too complicated, it doesn’t work properly or it distracts you and makes you walk under buses (insert your own reason here).
But what both Google Glass (which does, admittedly, have a few teething problems) and smartwatches (which also got off to a shaky start last year) demonstrate is the will to incorporate cutting edge technology into our everyday lives. Consumers are hungry for the next bit of innovative tech, and the smart money is on wearables.
Berg Insight estimates that the growth of wearable technology will result in a total of 64million global shipments by 2017, although other market commentators say that figure is well below what may actually be the true number, with ABI going for a much higher number of 485million by 2018.
One thing that manufacturers may not have taken into account with wearables as of yet is the difference in buying patterns between the sexes. Opinion is that current wearables are geared towards the male buyer, with accusations that the designs are too ‘chunky’ or masculine for women. Again, flexible plastic technology may hold the key to smaller smartwatches designed for slimmer women’s wrists, for example.
But despite these small gripes and a few teething problems, the fact is that our ongoing love affair with all things gadget-y means that wearable technology most certainly does have a future – and a pretty good one at that too.
Charlotte blogs about gadgets and technology, covering everything from the latest mobile advancements to display technology. When she’s not online Charlotte enjoys swimming, cycling and travelling the world.