Published in Dagens Industri January 14, 2014
If the Mary Meeker statement, that people check their phones 150 times a day which is on average every 6th minute during our waken hours, is true, then our phones have become our preferred life companions. But how smart is the smart phone, really? Even though the iPhone revolutionized our daily lives at the time it was launched, it is still physically designed as a phone as we used to know it, only without buttons. When voice is less than 10% of our total smart phone usage, we need new digital interfaces to manage our health, our social lives and our news updates.
We now see the next generation of wearable technology including most functions we have gotten used to from our smart phones, and more. Small screens on sensors carried as glasses, bracelets and necklaces, directly on our skin.
Like science fiction heroes, we will use wearables to accomplish the impossible. Imagine listening to a conversation that takes place 30 meters from you, using intelligent headphones neutralizing background noise, giving you the opportunity to select what you want to amplify. And at the same time have all possible information about the people discussing with the help of small cameras in your glasses. If they would speak a foreign language, it would be translated in real time and displayed on your bracelet. You will be a super human. Improved and enforced in all possible ways.
During 2014 consumers, according to Gartner, will buy more than 40 million pieces of wearables. That is more than a 100% increase compared to 2013.
The technology used for wearables can be small and simple enough to fit in stickers, as the thin plasters produced by MC10 measuring body temperature and hydration levels. It is within the health segment the strongest growth of wearables is expected. New York-based Pixie Scientific has beta tested smart diapers with a QR-kod, tracking the child’s urine, watching for signs of urinary tract infection, dehydration and possible kidney disorders. Croatian IDerma has developed a teddy bear measuring children’s heart rate and blood pressure when hugged.
Communication and documentation is another exciting area. Sign Language Ring is a set of finger rings translating sign language to written words on a wrist display. The wearable, automatic life logging camera Clip from Swedish Narrative documents and systemizes the user’s life, snapping a picture every 30 seconds. Wearables are also expected to increase effectiveness at work places. Speaker’s notes in the presenter’s glasses, sensors measuring levels of bacteria on a doctor’s hands, floor plans live streamed to firemen running into buildings on fire. There are many use cases.
Hardware producers will have an interesting position in the wearable tech race. The smartest watch, the most connected piece of jewelry, and the plaster with the best functionality will be best sellers. When the world’s tech giants and a myriad of start-ups are getting ready for a wearable market, there will also be a number of business opportunities for anyone who can deliver content and services for wearable consumption. New ways of communicating and creating end user value will be needed when only a fast glance at a wearable screen is expected to deliver instant personalized and localized information.
Personally, I look forward to a time when it is unnecessary to open my bag 150 times per day to find my phone. It will make my life richer. And who doesn’t want to be a super hero?