When observing people playing with their smartphones, tablets and phablets*, it is quite hard to believe that handheld mobile phone is only 40 year old invention and has been in mainstream use only for the last twenty years depending on the country. The influence of mobile phone to human behavior has been profound. When comparing current smartphones to the first bulky ones, they are quite far away from its original purpose of speaking to each other. New devices are definitely mobile, not necessarily that much of phones anymore.
So enter the wearable tech. It will be the next step for the mobile revolution.
Phone has been just a transition period with mobile. Mobile consists of three important elements: freedom, access & connection. You can achieve those with multiple devices. When assessing the future of mobile, there are two major shifts happening. Firstly, we are moving to the age of different screens. Secondly, we are totally defining mobile in a new way. It easy to dismiss wearable tech as a fad, but Sergey Brin raises really important point in this comment from Ted Conference few weeks back:
“Is this the way you’re meant to interact with other people? Is the future of connection just people walking around hunched up, looking down, rubbing a featureless piece of glass? It’s kind of emasculating. Is this what you’re meant to do with your body? You want something that will free your eyes.”
Using of smartphone has created new behavior patterns for us (aptly documented in the excellent Curious Rituals). Wearable tech is ideologically step backwards from smartphones. It is technology adapting to existing human behavior instead of actively changing it. In a way, wearable tech is more natural than using smartphone.
When thinking about possibilities of wearable tech, I would closely benchmark sports companies. Quantified self –movement naturally started from sporting and has evolved lately to other areas. Nike FuelBand is one of the first crossover wearable tech products, which has its roots in sports but expands to other areas as well. The really big potential is with the normal people. Being a sports fanatic myself it is often hard to forget that the target audience of us is lucrative but still quite small. The wearable tech company who is able to tap the mainstream audience will win. And win big: the wearable tech industry is estimated to be worth of $6 billion by the end of the year 2016.
When creating wearable technology, we have to think quite deeply about the issue of what people would wear and what they are wearing now? Looking from that angle, the wearable tech products most likely to hit mainstream should be quite familiar product types. My hunch is that they will be either watches, glasses or clothing (or combination of all of these):
The Revenge of the Watch
Watch has been relevant for hundred of years. You do not necessarily use it to its original purpose of timekeeping, but it has still maintained its role as a status symbol for many people. If you check time from your mobile phones, why would you not send your WeChat-messages from your watch? It will be interesting to see will certain existing watch manufacturers with strong brand equity challenge the technology companies in this field?
Watch out for: Kickstarter all-star Pebble, The rumoured iWatch, traditional existing watch manufacturers, sports watch brands (such as Polar or Suunto)
Using Glasses to
Look Be Smarter
What can I say about Google glasses that is not said in this video (NSFW)?
Nevertheless, I want to acquire one pair, despite all the privacy concerns.Google Glass has already competitors as well, but all the eyes will be on the Google on this one.
Important players: Google Glass, Luxottica (world´s largest eyewear company)
Maxwell Smart was Right
With clothing technology this rubber boot phone is definitely the most interesting one:
(Designer Sean Miles project for O2)
Jokes aside, the smart clothing has more supporting function with wearable technology accessories (maybe excluding bracelets). Different sensors can track things in clothing, but it is unlikely that we use our underwear as the main starting point for our mobile communication or access. That being said, combination of smartphone and smart clothing will probably be quite crucial in the transition period when moving to the new era of mobile. Especially if quantified self- phenomenon continues expanding to even more mainstream audiences.
Will wearable tech be the future of mobile?
I truly think so. The question is when that future is evenly distributed to the whole world?
* Contender for the most annoying word invented in last couple of years.