Heading towards Wearables 2.0

By : |December 1, 2014 0
Wearable makers need to create strong business models to speed up the transition

BANGALORE, INDIA: Wearables need to meet the true requirements of the market to live up to the hype.  A close look at the wearable adoption rate reveals that despite a great deal of excitement among the tech enthusiasts around wearable technology, wearable makers have still not been very successful in making good business cases for wearables. Andrew Till, SVP & Head – Mobile and Media Devices Unit, Symphony Teleca, states some of the possibilities and challenges in taking wearables mainstream and explains how businesses can benefit from different industrial applications.

CIOL: Wearable devices have not really been able to penetrate the mass market so market. Why?

Andrew Till: The market is very much in the 1.0 space and companies are learning more about customer sentiment and requirements. While the scenario might look a little unstructured now, we can expect to see more refined and focused solutions coming out by mid-2015. In the Android ecosystem, vendors are reliant on Google for the OS and hence they have been waiting for the Android Wear OS launch and then have rushed to get products out to market in an attempt to land-grab. However, adoption will take some time, just like Bluetooth technology, which took at least five years to become socially acceptable.

Watches will be adopted a lot quicker but consumers will always take time to feel comfortable with new advances in technology, especially ones that up to now have been portrayed as “Sci-Fi” – Remember the Dick Tracey Watch? Pricing and battery life currently pose the biggest challenges for wider market up-take. Most Smartwatches are priced around $200+, which is a lot more than most people typically spend on a watch. Add to that the limited 1 day battery life (for a product that normally runs for years on a single battery) and this underlines the two biggest challenges for mass market adoption.

I would highlight Polar and Suunto as two companies that have been selling smart watches for some time. Both have very focused propositions, and ecosystems, for their target consumer and have had a good level of adoption.

CIOL: While the market is still controlled by few smart glasses, watches and fitness trackers, what could be the other application areas?

AT: This is a great point. The current focus of wearable devices is very narrow but will broaden out as the market develops. Industrial workplace applications will develop for those who are in need for hands-free applications (builders, surgeons etc.). Health monitoring will also be a big segment.

Smart Home interaction will also provide a significant market opportunity. For example, low-powered wearables that helps to move information around the home and replace the need to install PRI sensors for smart light switches. Such wearables could learn about your preferences over time and with context as opposed to using standard profiling techniques in current solutions.

We see fashion as another key segment for wearable displays that interact with the world around you, or accentuate aspects of your clothing, and also reflect your mood etc.

There is also significant scope that over the next couple of years companies will start to seize on the power of the data analytics from wearables and build this in to their service offerings. The obvious example would be insurance where companies could offer discounted rates for consumers who provide access to their data. Another example could be smart shopping malls that use the data from wearables to understand their consumers and provide insights to the stores in the mall so that they can provide a more personalized experience. If we start to see companies offering consumer a reward or incentives for sharing their data this will also help to drive adoption of wearable technology.

Ultimately, we expect that the market will also be made up of thousands of sub segments based on low-cost sensors that are embedded into items in an unconscious and unobtrusive manner – for example today you can buy a Bluetooth Pillow with embedded speakers for those that like to listen to music when going to sleep. While this might be stretching the definition of the wearables market, I believe that such segments will emerge and play an important role in the development of the wider ecosystem and thus moving us closer to the inflection point where it makes sense for most consumers to own such products.

CIOL: Despite promises, challenges are still there in terms of designs, battery life, connectivity and standardization. The apps for wearables are also very hard to find. How do you look at these challenges?

AT: To a large extent I believe most of these challenges will be resolved through a) Moore’s Law and b) Metcalf’s Law. While Moore’s Law will deal with size, weight and battery life challenges, Metcalf’s law will drive focus on common HW radio standards for short range connectivity and also the intermediation protocols that win out. This will happen because people will place the highest value on the data, analytics and reporting they can leverage and that is where the real money will be for companies both selling wearables (and who will seek to capture consumers in to their ecosystem) and those companies that seek to leverage the data to build new services.

This may not mean that the best technology wins but rather we’d expect that the one that can drive to scale and make wearables a truly affordable mass market solution (think Betamax vs VHS).

To a large extent the evolution of the wearable market is likely to mirror what we have seen in the general mobile device market where devices have becomes fast, more powerful and significantly cheaper over the last five years and at the same time the utility benefit has grown exponentially for consumers. We have also seen that the value in the mobile device market is split between hardware and services and those that have prospered over the last 5 years have been able to balance these two highly effectively.

CIOL: How can SIX Studios help in solving some of the challenges?

AT: We can help companies develop their core ideas through brainstorming and ideation sessions. By providing the design and development services as a one-stop shop, we can free companies up to focus on their core innovation while we handle the execution of the software challenges.

One of the unique aspects of STC is that we work across so many different market segments such as Mobile, Automotive, IoT, Broadcast etc., as well as developing cloud services, we are able to look at the challenges of developing wearable devices and applications from the perspective of how they will interact with these different device types and how to bring the complete user experience together.

You can see examples of the types of support we can provide to companies in the Samsung Gear store where STC has a range of applications published for different Gear devices.

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