Headgear, glasses, wrist wear, shirts, shoes, accessories—the body has become a launchpad for hardware and software innovation in wearable computing. Our Uplinq™ 2014 mobile developers conference was loaded with exhibits, keynotes and sessions around wearables, and I want to highlight the Wearables Industry Roundtable that pulled together five experts:
- Ross Rubin, Principal Analyst, Reticle Research. Ross moderated the panel.
- Tom Essery, Vice President of Digital Research and Development at Timex. The is designed for tracking runs, listening to music and staying connected via messaging and SOS alerts without carrying your phone.
- David Garver – Vice President of Business Development for AT&T’s Emerging Devices group. AT&T provides connectivity to wearable computing devices including smartwatches.
- Jonathan Peachey – CEO, Filip Technologies. FiLIP is a wearable phone for children that keeps them connected to their parents.
- Rob Chandhok – Senior Vice President of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., and President of Qualcomm Interactive Platforms. Qualcomm Technologies‘ work in wearables includes technology soutions for smartwatches, fitness trackers, digital eyewear, mobile healthcare devices and more.
Here are a few takeaways from the panel discussion:
- Role of the developer community. At the moment, most of the attention around wearables is focused on wrist wear—especially smartwatches—and on the use case of fitness. While consumers will likely be content with a single smartphone for the foreseeable future, it won’t be long before they have multiple wearable computing devices, all generating different streams of data. David Garver put it aptly: “The phone is the hub now, but eventually the body will be the hub.” Panelists agreed that the biggest role for developers will be to aggregate data from 2, 5, 8 or a dozen wearables and turn it all into information that is relevant to the consumer.
- Do wearables need the smartphone? Most wearables now are extensions of the smartphone, moving notifications and data between the devices over Bluetooth®. As innovations in software and hardware enable use cases like fitness, health and child safety, consumers will gravitate to wearables like FiLIP and the TIMEX IRONMAN ONE GPS+ fitness watch that do not require a smartphone to stay connected. In fact, while consumers have only one smartphone, they will soon have multiple wearables. Also, the technology we associate with smartphones today – application processors, GPS,embedded sensors—has started moving into wearables, further reducing dependence on smartphones.
- Ongoing transition. The shift from feature phones to smartphones was relatively natural and easy for users to navigate. The shift from smartphones to wearables is less natural and will probably take much longer for manufacturers to get right. In the short run, there is more work to be done in optimizing comfort and natural fit than in adding more functionality.
- Wearables as a vehicle for notifications. It’s not always convenient to carry a smartphone; you don’t always have a pocket into which to tuck it. That raises the value of wearables, especially for light uses like delivering social updates and notifications.
- Entertainment on the wrist? At the same time, panelists agreed that users won’t likely take to studying wearables as intently as they study a smartphone or a tablet. Video and entertainment have made the leap from computer screen down to the smartphone, but they won’t likely make a similar leap to a small, body-worn display.
- Fashion: the next frontier. What’s next after wearable computing on the wrist? Probably jewelry, said multiple panelists. Although it’s early days, fashion is a likely next frontier for connected jewelry like rings, pendants and bracelets, underscoring the developer opportunity to aggregate even more data and turn it into information consumers can use.
Besides this panel, several other Uplinq presentations covered the topic of wearables. Have a look at videos from these sessions:
- Bringing Mobile Vision to Wearables
- The Wearable Experience: Lessons from Smartwatch and Fitness Band
Stay tuned – I’ll be posting more write-ups on Uplinq 2014 sessions.