Where is wearable technology heading in 2014?

More affordable wearables to enter the market next year
Where is wearable technology heading in 2014?

Analysts have predicted more affordable wearables will enter the market next year, but it may be a few years before wearable technology makes its mark on the enterprise.

Forrester analyst, Tim Sheedy, expected more lower-cost entrants from 2014, and says wearable computing isn’t going to end up a “technology for technology’s sake”. Wearables have been nominated by several analysts to be a key emerging technology trend in 2014.

“I think we will see an increase in the number of smartwatches and smart devices that you put on your wrists… effectively driven by the applications and the benefits they add to people’s lives,” Sheedy says.

“For example, a virtual reality health app, which I know is being worked on in Silicon Valley at the moment, gives you targets as you are running which helps motivate you and pushes you that little bit further.”

Many smartwatches are in the $300 to $400 range currently, but Gartner research director, Angela McIntyre, predicts some devices could come in under $100 next year.

“The less intrusive devices, such as pedometers that you can wear on your wrist or on your belt, are going to keep increasing in popularity as well as the fitness bands like Fitbit and Nike Plus,” she claims. “They are the less hyped type of devices, perhaps because they are less visible and less expensive and they definitely can fulfil a consumer need.”

McIntyre says consumers next year will take to wearables that meet a specific need or fulfil a specific purpose as opposed to an expensive ‘all-in-one’ device.

IBRS advisor, Joe Sweeney, agrees. “The idea of ‘device consolidation’ - one device will meet all the needs of a consumer - misses the point,” he says. “That is why Microsoft has had such a hard time selling the notion that there needs to be a ubiquitous interface from the phone to tablet to desktop and even TV. Different consumers, with different needs, doing different things will mean a steady market for all manner of devices that specialise in one or more utilities.”

But when it comes to the enterprise, adoption of wearables is not expected to be strong. “I don’t think Australian organisations are going to embrace the Google Glass, apart from health insurers that are already doing this to some extent,” says Sheedy.

Most Australian businesses are still getting their heads around their mobility strategies, and next year many will make significant investment in mobilising their workforce and extending capabilities out to customers. “It is still going to be a very smartphone-based process before they start to think about anything to do with wearables,” Sheedy continues.

“We are behind the US when it comes to that. In the US every man and his dog has an app, even the corner store has an app; there are apps for everything. That’s even happening more and more in Singapore and Hong Kong. Australian organisations, for the most part of it, really are only at the realisation point now of ‘I have got to take this mobile thing seriously’.”

Wissam Raffoul, IBRS advisor, agrees, saying many Australian organisations are still putting in place their basic mobility strategy.

However, Telsyte analyst, Rodney Gedda, sees great potential next year for businesses to discover the value that wearables can bring.

“In businesses it could be applied to monitoring where staff may be assisted by wearable technology. It could be in operating theatres,” he says. “[For example], a surgeon who has their hands full doing operations may be able to use a wearable computer to communicate with someone for assistance or advice.”

McIntyre also predicts some businesses could start using wearable technology to assist field workers who work remotely such as technicians and engineers. For example, wearable cameras can be used to train workers while they are offsite, offering a way for them to virtually be assisted by an expert at ‘home base’ that can guide them step by step while they carry out equipment repairs.

Gartner forecasts smartglasses could save the field service industry US$1 billion per year by 2017.

“Leading-edge companies, and companies that are early adopters of technology, are already planning data pilots for wearables in 2014,” McIntyre says. “There are some companies already that have been using wearable electronics for things such as training purposes, and wellness sand health programs.”

Wearables will drive the advancement of the virtual or digital personal assistant, McIntyre adds. “We are almost baby sitters of our smartphones; we need to download the apps, choose a function, choose the settings, and so on.

“If we have a personal assistant, it could be like Siri but in five years’ time. It could learn from our preferences and what we have done in the past and understand what we are saying and the meaning behind it. Wearables will help drive that.”

Follow Rebecca Merrett on Twitter: @Rebecca_Merrett


Other trends to watch out for in 2014:

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More about: Gartner, Google, IBRS, Microsoft, Nike, Telsyte
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