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Friday, 18 October 2013

Wearing Thin - Copy Watches, Cops and Cop-Outs

At one stage in my life I had a draw full of watches, albeit a small drawer and a few of the watches were euphemistically titled "copy watches".  One only had to visit most Asian cities a decade or two ago to be propositioned by furtive street vendors who offered you a 'Rolex" for a couple for dollars.

Not only were they bad fakes but their guarantee lasted only as long as its battery life.  After moving up the corporate ladder a real dress watch may be added but that was really the limit of my interest in timepieces as fashion accessories.

So the recent release of the over-hyped iWatches offers no appeal to me at all.  In fact I would go so far as to say that thus far, the whole iWatch movement (pun intended) is a bit of a cop-out.  These are not wearables that dazzle with innovation and I really can't see the point of having an adjunct to my smartphone strapped to my wrist?

While I made an earlier prediction in 2011 that wearables would be a significant megatrend, iWatches were not what I had in mind.  To me these 'wristlets' are examples of the dangers of moving away from innovation to commercialisation; the latest iPhone being another example.

Another example of where technology innovation doesn't quite fit the gadget is the taking of photographs with an iPad.  To see a horde of avid photographers holding their iPad's aloft always reminds me of Charlton Heston holding up the tablets of stone in the Ten Commandments.  The results though are far from similar.

Some wearable tech is moving in the right direction. The BioMan shirt keeps track of your body vitals through a weave of embedded steel threads which transmit data via Bluetooth to another device such as a smartphone.  Great for fitness fanatics but with a more serious capability of alerting your health professional in the event of your 'ticker' playing up.

According to an article looking at the intersection of the fashion industry and technology there were some 14 million such items on the market by the end of 2012 and the prediction is that this number will rise to 171 million by 2016. Another guesstimate from Juniper Research is that there will be 15 million wearable smart devices sold worldwide in 2013, rising to 70 million in sales by 2017.

So to put it succinctly, what is my expectation of the 'wearables' of the future?

I see such devices as being embedded into the Internet of Things and not operating as a standalone body add-on.  For example, my hat turning into a weather station and transmitting data, my clothing adjusting to the climatic conditions during the tropical hear or Arctic cold, better still priming my washing machine form afar to say that grimy work clothes were coming its way.

Wearables that monitor the smells that surround us, eliminating the less desirable. My personal tastegraph influencing such decisions.

Some wearables are  designed in a slightly less serious vein. The Cocktail Making Robot Dress in this video is enough to drive one to drink; quite literally.

Let us also not forget the commercial value of wearables and how they can potentially drive traffic for retailers.  Econsultancy, in collaboration with YouGov, looked at the impact of Google Glass as an example of wearable in-store.

Their key findings were:

  • 38% of customers said they would use Google Glass to create a shopping route
  • 27% would use Glass to check stock availability
  • 22% saw Glass as an opportunity to unlock additional offers and promotions. 
  • 70% of women however felt they would be embarrassed wearing such a device and the figure for men who felt similarly disinclined was 54%.

This UK reticence when it comes to wearing Google Glass ties in with other research conducted by Omnibus in May.  In that poll, less than a quarter of those surveyed (24%) said they would consider buying and wearing a pair of Google Glass-es.

It could well be that wearables will have a greater future with enterprises than consumers and Forrester sees this as a more likely trend.  If you doubt their findings look no further than  Motorola's Connected Law Enforcement Officer Of The Future.

Source: Motorola
Which reminds me, I need to get a new battery for my watch.

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