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Seeking the iPhone of Wearables

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 .

13 comments on “Seeking the iPhone of Wearables

  1. Himanshugupta
    October 29, 2013

    “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”

     

    Rick, you are absolutely correct that the wearable devices will not look like today's smartphones but much more sleek, flexible, energy efficient and modern. They will use technologies based on energy harvesting. Wearable devices are missing lot of innovations.

  2. Daniel
    October 29, 2013

    Rick, now it's the age of wearable's and device with last mile connectivity (IoT). The latest developments like foldable screen, cells (battery), thin and sticky photovoltaic films etc are adding fuels for mass developments. Recently Samsung had released Samsung Gear, a wearable watch which can be paired with Galaxy S3 and S4. All these developments show that there are lots of scopes for further developments and marketing.

  3. Daniel
    October 29, 2013

    “They will use technologies based on energy harvesting. Wearable devices are missing lot of innovations.”

    Himanshu, I don't think this is the right time for any criticism with respect to wearable technology.  It's a new domain and still not matured in terms of either technology or at application level.  At back end, lots of R&D is happening like foldable screen, foldable cells (battery), thin and sticky photovoltaic films etc, where energy harvesting and even green energy can be accounted.

  4. Himanshugupta
    October 30, 2013

    Jacob, i am not critising wearable devices. I am, on the other hand, is looking at the positive side that there is scope for lot of innovation. This is good for both engineers and technologists.

  5. Ariella
    October 30, 2013

    “This is good for both engineers and technologists.” @Jacob not to mention the businesses that profit from selling them.

  6. Houngbo_Hospice
    October 30, 2013

    Question is how many wearable devices will we carry along in the near future. Some people use to carry many handheld devices, can we have a universal wearable device that will fit all our needs?

  7. Daniel
    October 30, 2013

    “i am not critising wearable devices. I am, on the other hand, is looking at the positive side that there is scope for lot of innovation. This is good for both engineers and technologists.”

    Himanshu, I under stood that and what I meant is wearable technology is still in its childhood stage.

  8. ahdand
    October 31, 2013

    @Hospice: You mean 1 device to fit all right ? That is a very good idea indeed.          

  9. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    October 31, 2013

    Who knows, perhaps the next generation of smart technology won't be worn but rather embedded in our bodies… would you be willing to have an embedded Fitbit?

  10. ahdand
    October 31, 2013

    @Jacob: I think it's a good idea to have one device to cater all needs but also in the other hand when you consider the cost it might be a bit too much. So that maybe the reason people go for multiple devices which even might be cheaper than one single device which has all.                

  11. Himanshugupta
    October 31, 2013

    Nimantha, i donot think that people go for multiple devices due to price constrain but mainly due to availability. I would like to have a single device which can replace my desktop, mobile, TV and music player. Today all these devices need different configuration for example i need 14″ desktop, 42″ TV, 5-6″ phone and a compact music player. All these functionality cannot be fit into a single device without compromise so i need to buy many. Now if in the future we can have flexible, foldable and practically weightless devices or we can have something wearable or google-glass kind of device which can give me the same experience as i am having today of using multiple devices then i will go for a single device.

  12. Daniel
    November 4, 2013

    “I think it's a good idea to have one device to cater all needs but also in the other hand when you consider the cost it might be a bit too much. So that maybe the reason people go for multiple devices which even might be cheaper than one single device which has all.                “

    Nimantha, that's a tricky situation. From customer perspective, single device with multiple functionalities can bring down the prices, when compare with the price of two independent devices. But it can affect the business of two independent units, when we look from business angle.

  13. Eric Artille
    November 25, 2013

    Vaccum shoes and spray on clothing…I think we can do without that. Reminds me of this infomercial that I saw where the lady was wearing a suit made of the “swiffer” cloth and she was flailing around on the floor trying to clean it…some products are just plain silly.

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