So, we are back at base after a great Wearable Technology Show 2017. We were fortunate enough to meet a huge range of interesting people looking to take good ideas to market. We also had really interesting discussion with many thought leaders, suppliers and long term collaborators at the show, whose insight and vision are so important in the shaping of the road ahead. The enduring message from this week is one of an optimistic, but more mature future for Wearables.
Fall out from WTS2017
It is clear that the future success of Wearables will only be secured if we achieve significant improvements to the quality of sensors, batteries, devices, networks and data processing that goes into our products. However, the glue that makes this work will be a high level of integration and a software / hardware interaction that delivers subtle and appropriate interaction with the user, reliability and ultimately actionable, high value information. This is not something that any device I have tried has offered so far and without this degree of performance, there is little chance of regaining the appetite for wearables that existed 12 months ago.
Predictions for 2017
In what I shall call a ‘positive fragmentation’ of the industry, we will see more targeted niche applications, offering specific use cases and excellent performance in those use cases, rather than catchall wearable systems, catering to the lowest common denominators of consumer and performance. Generation 2 wearables will need to show consumers that the integrity and relevance of what they offer is high and ultimately that the information which they provide is both useful and actionable. More smart bands and watches is simply not going to cut it if we want to create genuine excitement in the consumer markets going forward.
My favourite discussion was actually before the show with Nick Hunn (@nickhunn), about the much peddled new generation cellular network “5G”. A chance encounter at the bar earlier in the week changed my mind about the network connectivity part of the Wearables and wider IoT landscape, which is one of the bottlenecks in reaching the seamless interaction required for a compelling user experience with Wearables. Nick’s conclusions are far reaching, as they seem to point to a systemic problem, rather than a technological one. A problem of vested interests, monopolies and herd mentality towards a “5G” brand that holds little chance of solving the existing problems for connected devices (latency, capacity, bandwidth and power consumption). Nick strongly advocated the optimisation of existing options to address these issues, rather than a new generation of hardware that will likely be rolled out with equally piecemeal and scattergun precision, as so far has been the case with 3G and 4G services (in the UK).
It’s taken a couple of days for this to sink in, because I have to admit that I have been philosophising for months about the promised land of 5G! The worrying thing is that the systematic failings are likely much harder to solve than the perceived technical ones. If Nick is correct, it seems that there are players in the industry who are acting as the gate keepers the progress we need and diverting attention away from more effective solutions, like investment in infrastructure improvements and proper roll out of services leveraging 4G LTE, WiFi coverage and development of sub GHz options for IoT messaging services operating with low data rates, but requiring low power, low bandwidth and low latency services.
You can find Nick’s blog here. Also great to hear more from FashNerd on their vision for the future of Fashion and Technology and read another great piece from Nick over on their blog, where he discusses Hearables – Another hot topic from WTS2017.
Wearables have taken a hit this year and there is nothing immediate that will change the mainstream assessment. However, we are only just starting to see the technology emerge, so I have no doubt that now the hype is over, we can get on with creating real, high value Wearables.
By Jacob Skinner, CEO of NDP, Product Development expert.