Someone needs to design the iPhone of wearables. There will be no iPhone of wearables.
I think both these statements are true. We need someone to show us the way into this brave new world beyond smartphones and tablets, but it won't be a single device.
When the iPhone of wearables arrives, it will be a collection of devices that interact to create an experience no single product could deliver. The smart shoes, glasses, necklace, watch, wristband, hat, jacket, belt, and bandana will create a body-area network that delivers a new kind of mobile experience. Each device a user adds will enhance the experience in some significant way.
But how? Ah, there's the rub. Well, stoke up the espresso maker and work on it. It's out there, I think -- we just haven't got to it yet.
There's a palpable energy around wearables, but the ideas are all wrong. The hubbub at the Glazed conference this week was exciting, but the products were clunky.
I saw a two or three new-to-me smart watches, but they were like smartphones strapped to your wrist. They showed Twitter feeds and Facebook updates and captured HD video. Those are smartphone apps, not wearable apps. Think different, people!
Back in the early 1990s, everybody believed we were at the dawn of a new mobile era. I saw so many prototypes of palmtop PCs and pen computers, but they were all Edsels and Newtons. Clunkers, every one.
The truth was our imaginations were ahead of the technology. We lacked low-power, high-performance processors and small, high-res displays. We packed desktop apps into pocket-sized computers and made people squirm and squint trying to use the wrong apps on the wrong platform.
We needed cellular and WiFi networks. We needed the web and cloud computing. We needed a wide choice of amazingly cheap and powerful SoCs and relatively dense and flexible lithium polymer batteries.
I suspect wearables are missing some of their key enabling technologies in energy harvesting, ultra-low-power mesh networks, and hi-res but non-intrusive heads-up displays. The energy at Glazed and around wearables in general seems a little over-eager, hyped. It's not time yet.
But something is cooking here. There will be an iPhone of wearables, but it won't be a single product. Will you design it?
Editor's note: This article was originally published on EETimes.