Wear is the future: When computers live on the body

Rosie Copland
Aug 8, 2016 · 7 min read

What’s holding them back

The primary difficulty facing wearables isn’t procuring new consumers (those numbers are consistently rising with rocketing sales forecasted in the coming years), but in ensuring customers continue to use the devices after purchase. Many current generation wearables are still struggling with a lack of adequate battery life, the provision of accurate and contextually sensitive data, and finding a proper marriage of relevant user experience with a suitable interface (an area we explored for our Jawbone project).

​Who’s getting it right

It’s safe to say that wearables are likely to succeed in the fashion industry in the long term as the lines between technology and fashion continue to blur. The versatility of wearable tech means it can be easily visible and bold, concealed in everyday apparel, specifically tailored to suit professional needs or generalised for the public persona. Fashion doesn’t generally focus on functionality, but on providing consumers with apparel that enables them to characterise and express themselves; whereas, tech concentrates on functionality and performance. Therefore, the best wearable tech contributions will be the garments that are both needed and desired, purposeful and expressive — rather than wearable tech for the sake of wearable tech.

​Who, What, Wear — Why, How and When

Wearables like Vivi have their origins in the medical and fitness industry, but also demonstrate growth into other areas. Field service, insurance, electronic payment, event management and retail are among the first sectors to adopt technology into workplace attire; many other fields are expected to follow suit in the coming years. Sport will also be hugely impacted, with the ability to oversee crowd flow, live updates and the performance of individual players.
Sports players are beginning to wear wearables in training so that their managers can monitor their movements and their fitness through hard data, helping to assess performance and prevent injury. Reebok’s Checklight is a good example of this, with concussion being such a huge issue within the world of rugby and american football, companies are trying to find ways to tackle it using wearable tech.

Where there’s a screen, there’s a way

Advertising should also welcome wearables as a platform. Brands and agencies will be able to collect more individualised data to create hyper-targeted messages that lead to increased conversions. Augmented reality devices for instance can use eye-tracking software to pop up ads when users look at a certain item. Smartwatches may not necessarily offer distinguished use-cases from what our phones already offer given their lack of distinctive properties and smaller screens, but they can still be used to acquire valuable data.

​Counting down to an unfolding ecosystem

As wearable devices spread across all industries, the data discovered will spread into everyday life. These connections will require new regulation at a level far higher than individual industry. Under an umbrella network, virtually everything will be optimised to offer insights into goals and habits, streamline mundane processes and deepen interactions with current technologies. A wearable ecosystem will inevitably house an infrastructure reliant on some sort of multi channel network (Bluetooth, at first): devices will transmit data collectively, not individually.

​Looking forwards: room for growth

Projected to be a $19b USD market by 2018, the advent of small scale computing integrated into the wardrobe challenges everything we know to be true about computing. Still, reaching this valuation will require plenty of effort.

rehab

a creative technology company

Rosie Copland

Written by

Strategist and Global PR at @rehab

rehab

rehab

a creative technology company