The evolution of wearable devices: are they the future?
So we have moved on from desktop PCs and have now entered a new era of computing via connected devices such as smartphones, tablets, and phablets, supported by the evolution of technology. In this tech-savvy era, consumers are very much technology-driven: we now have devices which monitor and respond to users based on gestures and context. So what is next, what is the future for mobile computing? We believe it is next-gen wearable devices - next-gen, because the concept is not new. The first documented wearable computer came in 1961; Ed Thorpe and Claude Shannon, both mathematics professors at MIT, created a small device which could predict the octant where a roulette ball would drop and notify the bettor via a tone played into a speaker which octant to bet on. The device was designed to be used by two people, one wearing the input device and one wearing the output device to avoid detection. Other devices were created to help gamers cheat, particularly at blackjack and roulette. These devices were ultimately banned in Las Vegas in 1985. (Whether or not this ban served to delay the deployment of wearable devices is a debate beyond the scope of this particular blog…) While not wearable devices as we would think of them today, these are nevertheless the forerunners of today’s wearables – devices that were designed to be hidden on the person and process data. The use of wearable devices connected to the smartphone in the fitness and sports environment has grown rapidly in the last two years with applications such as Nike+ and Fitbit Tracker allowing data from training sessions to be uploaded and analysed. But what really excites us (measure that excitement rising, you wearable tracker!), is the Google Glass Project: a research and development program announced earlier this year by Google to develop a multi-function augmented reality display device, which we believe will be the next form factor for mobile computing, for displaying and performing functionalities similar to most smartphones. Even though this is not the first prototype device to be introduced into the market, the development from Google is expected to enhance consumer awareness and interest. Classified as a ‘future form factor’ for computing devices, next generation wearables, including smart glasses and other head-mounted displays, will provide a multitude of functions either independently or in conjunction with a third party platform. Also, it is not just Google eyeing this space – other key influential players such as Apple and Sony have already made key strategic moves in this sector. So how much will it be worth? Juniper anticipates that the next-gen wearable devices market, including smart glasses, will be worth more than $1.5 billion by 2014, up from $800 million this year. These revenues will be largely driven by consumer spending on fitness, multi-functional devices, and healthcare.