Two pieces of news make it apparent that a key piece of wearable computing is gaining steam.
- Bloomberg reports that Samsung on September 4 will introduce the Galaxy Gear, described as an Android-powered “wristwatch-like” device that will offer phone service, Web surfing and email functionality.
- While Apple has not officially confirmed that it is working on an eWatch, eWeek said the company has hired Jay Blahnik, one of the developers of Nike’s FuelBand, an electronic wristband that tracks workouts and fitness. Apple is heavily rumored to be working on an eWatch and this move is seen essentially as confirmation of those efforts.
The electronic watch sector is destined to be pretty crowded.
According to eWeek:
“Smart watches from Apple and Samsung will have plenty of competition—nearly every major tech brand has admitted to having such a device in the works, and so do many lesser-known brands.”
The bigger picture is even more intriguing. Electronic glasses and watches are the most visible first steps in what could become a deluge. Computerworld’s Mike Elgan suggests that what these gadgets represent is far more than adding data to what the user sees and supplementing the time of day carried on a watch:
Wearable computing is nothing less than a fundamental shift in our relationship to computers and the Internet.
The long story makes the essential point that integrating computing into the body that is using it creates personal area networks (PANs), which result in applications that are different and more nuanced than computers carried by the owner, such as smartphones and laptops. Specialized uses tied to the specific area of the body hosting the PAN will emerge. In short, electronic glasses and watches are an early wave of PANs, which herald a significant change in mobility and its uses.
BusinessInsider’s Marcelo Ballve makes much the same point. He takes it a step further by assessing the wearable computing market and looking at some of the emerging subcategories. He quotes IMS Research numbers that indicate that the market could grow from 14 million to 171 million between 2011 and 2016. ABI Research, in what Ballve says is a more recent study, suggests that annual shipments could reach 485 million by 2018. He takes a look at the bracelet, smartwatch and eyewear segments.
The wearable computing segment seems like a natural. The first sign that that indeed is the case is the great interest from both vendors and end users in electronic glasses and watches. IT departments should track this growing segment. Bring your own device (BYOD) may eventually give way to Wear your own device (WYOD).