- Vinay Nair
Looking at a distant future with Wearable Technology
Technology has become an all-pervasive aspect of our lives. Majority of people nowadays cannot even imagine leaving their houses without their laptops, tablets or phones. As the phenomenon of globalisation moves from strong to stronger milestones, being ‘connected’ has also gained a lot of importance. Myriad of tech companies which started by specialising in one kind of product/service are now trying to become ‘super shops’.
If you want an example to illustrate this point, think of Amazon.com and the way it developed as a brand. We all know how Amazon was initially an online bookstore, that moved quickly to e-commerce and then finally ventured into manufacturing tablets, phones, and even digital assistants (Alexa). Now, they are one of the world’s largest companies with an online market, retail services, cloud platform, streaming services, and a solid hardware line.
There once used to be a lot of excitement for smartphones, back when they were comparatively newer in the market, but now since smartphones have almost become the ‘norm’ across the globe, the enthusiasm and hype which it previously elicited is "gone".
The next move is to explore the wearable technology space.
What is a "wearable" technology?
Wearable technology, as the name suggests are basically gadgets that can be worn as an accessory or an item of clothing. But it's more than that, isn't it? It's a slice of the science fiction novels or comics and are associated with futuristic feeling. These are electronic devices that we think will revolutionise the way we live our lives and will make them more efficient and organised.
Also referred to as wearables, these devices or sensors have assistive technology and are embedded in or worn on a body to perform specific tasks or functions. Your thought must be going immediately to devices like Apple Watch, Fitbit trackers, Jio Glass and these are only a few of such wearables that are available in the market, that has revolutionized the way we receive and share data.
Projections indicate that this industry, which was valued at $19,633 million in 2015, is and will be growing at Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 16.2% to reach a whopping $57,653 million by 2022.
Wearables come under a wide variety of gadgets. While smartwatches that can not only show you time but also access your emails and social media, set reminders, take calls, and play music, are pretty common these days, unusual items like shoes with sensors to convert any sort of movement into energy, or to track the wearer, are also gaining momentum. There are devices which are designed like jewellery but can actually keep track of your heart rate, body temperature, or even your blood oxygen levels, and there are contact lenses with virtual assistants built into them. You may have heard of Elon Musk’s new pet project, Neuralink, which he called the equivalent of "a Fitbit in your skull". While a bionic brain chip seems like too futuristic to be true, the basic idea behind it is to solve these problems with an implantable digital device that will be able to interpret, and possibly alter, the electrical signals made by neurons in the brain.
If you can correct these signals you can solve everything from memory loss, hearing loss, blindness, paralysis depression, insomnia, extreme pain, seizures, anxiety, addiction, strokes, brain damage; these can all be solved with an implantable neural link
These are only a few examples of wearables that are available or are in the pipelines and it can be said with ease that not only has this industry diversified by a huge margin, it is also one where innovation is taking place regularly.
What lies ahead?
Most of these hi-tech wearables that we see and use these days are a part of the Internet of Things (IoT), which, in layman terms, is basically a network that allows you to access and use the data that is stored in all devices that run on the same network. Essentially, companies producing IoT enabling technology that can be applied to more than one device will eventually survive, long term.
The future of this industry and the startups that are sustained by this industry seem to be in good hands because its growth has been quite phenomenal. Half a decade ago, years ago, you could count the number of companies and startups offering wearable tech on one hand, but now you’ll probably end up needing fifteen!!!
There are a lot of advantages to using Wearables, but it’s not as if they do not come with their fair share of disadvantages.
While they may be convenient in terms of their functions or the services they offer, a gadget can be bulky and can require frequent recharges. These wearables, however, make it easier to keep track of your progress, be it in matters of fitness, connectivity, health or wellness. It is also a blessing for people with any kind of disability by helping them with tasks which otherwise might have been difficult for them to perform.
The success of any Wearable technology will solely depend on three factors: versatility, prevalence, and energy efficiency. The popularity of a variant depends on how good their functions are, how convenient they are, and on whether you have to charge it every 10 minutes.
Given the fact that technology is improving by leaps and bounds every day and machine learning algorithms are helping in transforming simple sensory inputs into active data. Wearable technology is thus extremely helpful for better personal monitoring.
The future of this industry depends on three major factors:
Resilience and sustainability: Engineers so far have struggled with making devices that last long and can be consistently updated. Sustainability in today's world is of extreme importance. A tech has to be future-proof.
Evaluation: The product or service must be under constant scrutiny and that is because of the need to constantly update themselves to fit the needs of the customer. Our world is an ever-changing one and to fit perfectly with what the time demands, with regards to the user, can be tough.
Market: Many wearable technologies that we have seen over the years while looking initially extremely useful, could not stand the test of time. Understanding the market and conducting proper scientific and elaborate market research so that it can be made more useful, efficient and beneficial should be the primary focus of every company.
One good thing that has happened due to this prolonged lockdown is that it has made everyone a lot more digitally savvy.
An entire generation of Baby Boomers is now quite adept at digital interactions. On top of that, The world moves at such a pace now that everybody is looking at working smarter not harder. So, as long as the wearable technology is efficient and suitable to a plethora of uses and needs, it is safe. Along with this, the company will also need a good marketing strategy, a dedicated team, and most importantly, a constant thirst for innovation and development.