Though large segments of the populace think the category is creepy and/or overly intrusive, it is clear that wearable computers are in development. At InformationWeek, Stephen Forte, chief strategy officer at Telerik, described some uses of the new technologies. Inevitably, such a list of examples mixes things that undeniably are beneficial, marginal and a bit frightening.
The great application that Forte mentioned involves Google Glass or similar eyewear that counts the number of times a person blinks. Motorists and other drivers would be alerted when the number of blinks suggests that they are falling asleep. The marginally helpful example I identify as using a wearable computer instead of an ID badge at work. The scary part is not represented by a specific application, but by the nature of the category itself:
What makes this latest wave of hardware exponentially more exciting than other evolutions is the connectivity with the cloud. Thanks to the cloud, devices like Google Glass and Fitbit have access to geolocation information, your past history, the Internet, plus the ability to record, broadcast and post to social media.
One organization concluded that enough people don’t think wearable computing is too invasive to make it a big hit. Last week, BCC Research released research suggesting a dramatic acceptance rate. The press release says that the global market for wearables will grow to $30.2 billion by 2018. The firm thinks that the consumer market will be almost three times the size of the enterprise segment:
Consumer applications, including wearable cameras, activity trackers, smart clothing, smart glasses, smart watches, augmented reality and gaming devices, are expected to explode onto the market over the next few years, reaching $22.1 billion by 2018. Non-consumer markets (healthcare, defense/security, enterprise, and industrial) are expected to reach $8.1 billion by 2018.
A market of that size will include the big players and, last week, Google introduced Android Wear, which Time called a “mobile operating system tailored for smartwatches and other wearable devices.” The idea is to focus on notifications and alerts, not to replicate what a smartphone does. Google Now, according to the piece, will serve as the virtual assistant and voice search will be available. Google is priming the pump:
But third-party apps and notifications will be just as important, which is presumably why Google is announcing Android Wear right now. Google wants Android developers to begin making their apps more wearable-friendly, though many app notifications will apparently work well without any changes. That’s a big advantage Google can wield over Samsung’s Tizen-based Galaxy Gear watches, which need to build up developer support from scratch.
The design mavens also are getting into the wearable computing act, which may be as good a sign as any that the concept is here to stay. It is clear that wearable computing is headed for great things. In many ways, it is an extension of bring your own device (BYOD). Enterprises, whether they like it or not, must be prepared on a couple of levels: They must determine how wearables fit into their retail strategies and how to handle employees who are wearing their computers to work.