The who, what, where and when of wearables

The Who, What, Where and When of Wearables
What is the number one trend dominating the technology dialogue this year? That’s right, we’re looking to wearables as the next big thing – but are they really the way forward? Or just another gadget fad that will fade into the background?

The buzzword currently littering the tech world right now is “wearable”, and everyone has the same feeling: just as “social media” turned from buzzword to game-changer, the next step forward in technology will focus on the wearable market. This was certainly echoed earlier this year at the CES 2015.  

Queues wrapped around stands just for the Oculus Rift experience, while the rest of the public could find everything from collars which locate lost pets to sports clothing which monitors your heart rate and exercise progress, and even smartwatches which have partnered with big-name fashion brands to try and make wearables more attractive to the mass market.

It hasn’t all been positive though. What some would call the biggest wearable release, the iWatch, has come under fire even before it’s available to the public with many critics proclaiming it a flop, but one thing is for sure, Apple’s marketing juggernaut will be looking to turn around any doubters. Is it too soon for the wearable? Is it a step too far in terms of adoption when consumers (and providers) are struggling to keep up as it is?

What’s all the fuss about?

Wearables have been around for years in terms of wrist watches that monitor this and that, but when you mention wearables now, they refer more to the trend towards fitting sensors into things we are already used to wearing every day, and expanding upon the plethora of apps that run on those which are already technological. As with every industry these days, it’s about reinforcing a seamless element into consumer experience; it is absolutely crucial to their adoption that they be simple to use and easily integrated into your current lifestyle. 

With this in mind, it is not surprising that we are seeing smartwatches that reflect jewellery or sports clothing with built-in sensors. Wearables are no longer just for sitting on your wrist; the new concept for wearables is to sit within your clothes, your shoes, your necklaces or your eyewear.

Who’s talking about it?

This new concept has been a joy and a nightmare for two differing factions. While tech experts marvel over the sleek design and the ever-improving nature of these devices, the fashion industry argues that they are in no way able to keep pace with fashion, and that convincing consumers that their persona will be enhanced by adopting this technology over traditional jewellery, will be somewhat of a challenge. As with any advance in technology, there is a time and a place – sports and activities being a perfect example. 

On the one hand, technology has obliterated any expectations of what people believed it would look like. The fact that foldable screens, 3D printing and virtual reality are edging their way to the mass market should suggest just how far we have come, which is why to so many people think of the iWatch as sleek and stylish. However, for the fashion world, it poses a huge dilemma: there is a style and fashion combination for every occasion, and for each individual this can vary. Fashion also changes with time, while people themselves go through phases of styles they prefer. How is it possible for one piece of technology which claims to be a wearable fit so elegantly in the middle of this? Will it ever be possible, given what we have already witnessed in terms of the pace at which technology moves?

When will they impact eCommerce?

Companies should be considering their future options here, marketing opportunities such as geo-location offers for example, but while iWatches and other smartwatches are available now or in the near future, they are very much still in their developmental infancy.

What we should be considering is how much of an influence it will have on the average consumer, and how long this will take to be adopted. When will this become the norm? Given the number of models on the market, it is reasonable to assume a rapid uptake in their initial production, so within a relatively short period of time we will probably see a surge in smartwatch buying. 

However, such devices seem have a highly targeted functionality, such as the plethora of devices aimed at athletes, so while there may be a surge in purchasing purely for a fad, the devices themselves need developing much further before they become one of those items we cannot live without. In terms of those wearables which are trying to fit perfectly into our daily lives, they too are nowhere near advanced enough (or expensive) to be considered by all.

Where is all this taking us?

With everything changing so rapidly it is hard to separate the good ideas from the bad, or to even tell whether there are clear distinctions anymore. No one could have predicted that Facebook would revolutionise the way people socialise, or how the smartphone would revolutionise commerce, so people rarely make predictions with any confidence anymore – they often turn out to be completely inaccurate, or at least the timing is. 

One thing is certain, though: it is very difficult indeed to go against the strong emphasis placed on wearables at CES 2015 and by more and more experts every day. So many companies are investing millions into wearables that it would be impossible for it to not take off, so we can only speculate as to the timing rather than whether or not it will take off – it is inevitable.