What’s all the Fuss with Wearable Tech

…and why should you care? Great questions. I recently saw something on this and have something to add.

In the 2010-2011 time frame, the realization that a well-established ecosystem could make or break a mobile platform was all the rage.  Apple, or more specifically Steve Jobs, had figured that out a long while back, and had been moving towards that direction after capturing the digital music market in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Today, there seems to be a new market emerging, and like the early development of the ecosystem, there aren’t a lot of people who quite get it.

Wearable Technology is supposed to be huge.

indexMany are asking how, when C|Net pronounced the Microsoft Spot Watch dead on 2008-04-23; and newer reincarnations like the Pebble have been met with mediocre success. While things like the Nike Fuel Band or the FitBit have been out for a while, they don’t quite fit the intended paradigm. They’re only a small part of the picture; and I’ll get to why shortly.

According to ComputerWorld, “Wearable computing is about augmenting your whole life and taking advantage of fast-improving Internet services without being glued to a screen all day.” This is only partially right. It’s more about the ecosystem the wearable tech is compatible with and (more importantly) the services you subscribe to and use with that wearable tech.  Because, if the companies involved can’t lock you in and/or sell you services related to the tech… what’s the point?

Your smartphone is going to end up becoming the hub or, mobile router if you will, in a personal area network or PAN that goes where you go. It lives within an ecosystem providing access to multimedia content, apps and connectivity that can be consumed, projected; and where all of the related data will be initially cached before moving on to permanent storage in the cloud. You consume it all – you guessed it – on the wearable tech.

Your mobile carrier will allow you to communicate as you do today, but not via voice calls.  Think VoIP.  You’re going to have devices that all interconnect via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi and trade information back and forth, all at the same time.  Your Nike Fuel Band or FitBit will likely be replaced by a shirt or other piece of clothing that can display states of your workout, right on your sleeve or pant leg. Built in, washable sensors keep stats on your vitals and accomplishments as you continue to work out. You’ll pay – reasonable, nominal fees – for the tech, the apps, and the connected services. Vendors make money not on the tech per sell, but on the (licensing or reciprocal agreements and) services that you use and consume.

Wearable tech is all about integrating technology into your everyday life, and about selling the services that make it transparent.  This is why the iWatch (or whatever Apple’s gonna call it) and other items like the FitBit or Fuel Band are (at least initially) a big deal. The better job they do on catching on, the better chance the rest of the genre will have, and the less work vendors will have to do in selling the concept to the general public.

In my opinion, for this to work, wearable tech is going to have to be ecosystem and smartphone agnostic.  It’s going to need to work with every ecosystem and every “modern” smartphone, without issue, and without missing any “critical features.”

What I’m most concerned about at this point, is how carriers and hardware manufacturers respond to the “agnostic” requirement.  They don’t tend to be very supported of interoperability or sharing their networks and other services with those that don’t pay to play. I’m hoping by the time this really takes hold, carriers understand that they are a utility and not much more.

What do YOU think? Is your smartphone going to become a mobile router? As network speeds and liability improves will converged devices break up back into separate phones, music players and personal information managers or will that functionality melt away to something else more compelling?

Why don’t you sound off I the comments below and let me know what you think?

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