It’s hard to avoid the topic of wearable technology these days. Analysts are trumpeting the numbers and growth projections, fashion magazines are incorporating them into spreads, and everyone under the sun has suddenly gone all wild about wearables.
Heck, the wearables market has had such enormous influence on connected devices that we decided to make them the focal point of this year’s Perfect Gift section, which will come out with our December issue. That being said, it’s hard to gauge between what is simply fashionable for the moment and what actually has staying power.
I had an interesting conversation with an expert from the fashion world on this topic. Syuzi Pakhchyan is an experienced designer who describes her work as the investigation of the intersection between code, cloth, and culture. Her book “Fashioning Technology: A DIY Intro to Smart Crafting,” focuses on the topic.
In our conversation about the long-term viability of wearables, she emphasized the fact that technology providers need to separate from the pack in a stylistic manner. In other words, many of the wearables on the market today are solid from a functionality standpoint—doing their particular function well, whether that is fitness tracking or health monitoring, etc. That next step will be making sure the consumer actually wants to wear the device—and keep wearing the device. Pakhchyan characterizes this as getting past the “technology hurdle” and on to the “emotional hurdle.”
I think the analyst community is starting to communicate the same message. I give credit to a recent report from Berg Insight for balancing its grandiose growth projections with words of caution.
Berg Insight says sales of smart glasses, smart watches, and wearable fitness trackers reached 8.3 million units worldwide in 2012, up from 3.1 million devices in the previous year and expects total shipments of wearable technology devices to reach 64 million units in 2017.
However, Johan Svanberg, senior analyst at Berg Insight, says devices need to evolve into something more than single purpose devices in order to be truly successful. I happen to agree. Or else we will end up wearing 15 devices to perform 15 different functions. To be frank—that’s not going to happen.
So it seems as if the future of wearable technology hinges on two very important factors: elegance and multipurpose. The company that develops a smartwatch that appeals to the timeless classic elegance of style of such a classic accessory, while also performing multiple functions might ultimately win out.
It is a conversation I would like to have at our Connected World Conference this February. I am looking for experts who can debate the future of wearables from all angles. If you think you have something to contribute to this discussion I encourage you to contact me and let’s set up a conversation for the masses that will take this wearable discussion to the next level.