Wearable technology for all

You may have heard the term “wearables,” whose etymology can be traced back to the earlier efforts of bringing the processing power of a desktop computer to something you can wear.

In the early days of wearable technology, I had my share of people telling me “you look funny with that hideous thing on your arm/head/chest.” Maybe I was lacking fashion sense, which to this day my wife agrees, or since 0’s and 1’s run through my veins I felt nothing was wrong with my fashion statement.

Admittedly, early incarnations of wearable computers did have clumsy form factors on top of being difficult and frustrating to operate, rendering the efficacy of such device questionable.

Fast forward a decade and it’s all about the utility of such devices. Adoption of wearables has crossed demographic boundaries – no more a niche geek accessory of yesteryear. But what changed?

The current crop of wearables resemble real world objects such as fashion accessories (wrist watches, pendants, key rings) that are aesthetically pleasing and functionally synonymous – or even superior – to their real world counterparts.

Yet aesthetics alone is not the reason why wearables, after a long history of catering to geeks, are having an explosion of growth fueled by realized and potential innovations. Readily available computing power in an aesthetically pleasing form factor is often complemented by apps on the smartphone. Their utility is also enhanced by the ubiquity of being in the digital world – a world made possible by the proliferation of the internet into every nook and cranny of our lives. In short, wearables are another product of the continued synthesis of the real and digital worlds.

Take health monitoring for example. The clinical side, i.e. hospitals, has always been quick to embrace technology to aid inpatient and outpatient health monitoring. A single Band-Aid-sized sensor, for example, can monitor a patient's heart rate, body temperature, respiratory rate and other bodily functions while wirelessly reporting back to a bedside monitor, nurse station and even to the smartphone of the attending physician.

However, the consumer side is where we are seeing the aforementioned explosive growth in the adoption of wearables. Traditional computer and smartphone manufacturing powerhouses like Apple, Samsung and others continue to introduce wearables that are complemented by smartphone apps.

Although market analysis may be suggesting that Apple Watch, at least in the initial incarnation, may be losing consumer interest shortly after launch, the rumored second version of Apple Watch and various other Android Wear-based wearables are threatening to take market share away from consumer wearable pioneering titans like Fitbit, Jawbone and Nike (also referred to as lifestyle trackers).

From continuous health monitoring to simply showing time, and text message or call notifications from your smartphone, we have only scratched the surface of what a wearable can do to appease us from the cacophony of distractions in our lives. Future innovation in this nascent market is something that we all can benefit from, young or old!

Tak Sato

Business and technology strategist/consultant with 25 years of experience. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and MBA from Cleveland State University.

As founder of geek with a heart, "Hand-holding You in the Digital World", Tak helps Individuals, Seniors, Families, Small Businesses, Schools, and Non-Profits utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives.

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Volume 7, Issue 14, Posted 9:13 AM, 07.21.2015