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Wearable tech: a look back into the history and at what’s ahead


Let’s be honest: it’s hard not to be fascinated by the future. A dazzling world of ever-improving technology that will eventually make us all feel as if we just jumped out of one of our favorite sci-fi films, geared up with super smart and super small devices that will make our daily life so much easier (and quicker).

Far from having an Iron Man suit sold at Walmart or a mobile phone installed in a tooth, the future of wearable tech is actually here. Evolving fast and adapting quickly, the industry is flooding consumers with so many new devices it’s hard to keep track. Deloitte predicts smart glasses, fitness bands and watches alone should sell about 10 million units in 2014, generating $3 billion, while global sales of smartphones, tablets, PCs, TV sets and gaming consoles will exceed $750 billion in 2014 and then plateau as consumer usage will continue to converge.


Back in the day

When did the wearable frenzy start?

You’d be surprised, but the tech behind wearable computing devices owes its dawn to the attempt of cheating casinos in the 1960s: the goal was to count cards and improve a gambler’s odds and it kind of worked, for a while. Then, the Pulsar Calculator Wristwatch released in 1975 quickly became a must-have, and with the movie ‘Terminator’ in 1984, we might have seen an ancestor of the now-so-talked-about Google Glasses.

Moving on, 2000 was the year of the first bluetooth headset, followed by the world’s first fully digital pacemaker (the Vitatron C-series) in 2003, which allowed MDs to download patient information in just 18 seconds. We all remember the Nike+iPod right? It was 2006, and since then we’ve had The Pebble (a Kickstarted customizable watch which made it to $10M on a goal of just $100k), the Samsung Smartwatch Galaxy Gear and of course, Google Glasses.


Where are we now?

With tech barriers coming down faster than ever, larger players in the market are moving beyond the devices to produce OS and databanks to manage the information generated by wearables. These include Google’s Android Wear, Qualcomm’s 2net and Samsung’s Digital Health Initiative, aimed at directing the resources and innovation of the global technology industry towards empowering individuals to better manage their own health and wellness.

And what about the mobile payment industry? PayPal’s mobile payments app is officially available for the Pebble smart watch (remember them?) – Pebble users can now check in to stores via the PayPal app and pay with an auto-generated payment code wherever PayPal is already accepted. No phone necessary, making apps not exclusively linked to smartphones anymore!

Moreover, wearable technology is set to spread its wings across more fields than one might imagine: from the gaming industry to the fitness world, fashion, healthcare, long distance relationships and even jewelry.

LifeBeam for instance, an Israel-based company, has introduced a type of wearable that can be worn on your head. Specializing in aerospace wearables, the company also develops bio-sensing technology for extreme activities, striving to create the best technology for human performance measurement. The gear for your head tracks calories, steps, heart rate and other data that is vital to the average fitness aficionado. Making it odd (and probably uncomfortable) to be worn 24/7 like other fitness monitors, this gear is meant for both the more active user, and also the picky one who doesn’t want a wrist-anything all the time.

Fancy a tech ring? You can have it. Ringly and MOTA are just two of the many companies that now offer tech jewelry solutions, like a ring that vibrates when you get an email or a push notification from one of your favorite apps.

From the consumer to the business

The wearable industry launched with the consumer as a target, but horizons often widen easily and with good reason.

For example, leveraging CRM and other enterprise-based systems for smartwatch applications could enable field workers to enter and receive dispatches and tasks more easily, allow employees in the financial market to receive alerts on their smart watches (like stock market changes or client requests) or let medical personnel get important patient updates and appointment alerts.

A smartphone can already carry out these tasks, but for anything in need of a quick response rate, smartwatches like Samsung’s new Gear S and other wearable seem to be the way to go. Speaking of Samsung, its enterprise wearable play is not specifically focused on the Gear S or smartwatches, so the company also is planning to introduce a virtual reality headset called Gear VR that will work with the Galaxy Note 4 phablet and could be used to address business applications (from real estate to consulting to much more).

Is your brain burning yet? The market surely is on fire, with a forecast of smart wearable device revenues to reach over $53 billion in 2019. We can almost see what’s waiting around the bend: probably a next-generation smart band around our wrists.

Photo Courtesy of Keoni Cabral


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