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The Age of Wearing Technology & Its Long Tail

Fitbit, light-controlled clothing, Google Glass, bendable screens, armbands that detect moods, smart watches, and 3D-printed rings that operate as subway passes — everywhere you look, all signs seem to point to the mass-market potential of wearable technology.

While the wearable technology evolution has been on the electronics wish list radar screen for years, the chatter is slowly becoming reality and more real-life examples are moving from prototype to mainstream media headlines. As always, the shift to these kinds of products will have an impact on design, supply chain, and manufacturing practices.

As we've seen with many other new hot, up-and-coming technology platforms, the growth potential numbers are always eye opening.

A report released in early October estimates that the wearable electronics and technology market — which basically includes power supply, positioning and networking components, and sensing, control, display, memory, and interface components — will be worth $8.36 billion five years out, with about 130 million units shipped. This figure is up from the $2.5 billion in revenue posted in 2012 and carries with it an expected compounded annual growth rate of 17.7 percent between this year and 2018, according the MarketsandMarkets release. A Business Insider BI Intelligence report puts the number even higher. It “conservatively” forecasts a $12 billion market for wearable devices, with wrist-worn gadgets leading the charge.

We're already seeing the range of traditionally low-tech consumer product sectors being touched by wearables — eyewear, footwear, clothing, wristwatches, and exercise gear. Give it a bit more time, and undoubtedly the possibilities will multiply and extend well beyond the consumer devices currently coming to market and winning attention.

Wearable electronics in consumer applications accounted for the largest market share, with revenue crossing $2 billion in 2012, the MarketsandMarkets report shows. However, enterprise and industrial applications are predicted to grow at the highest CAGR — more than 21 percent — during the forecast period of 2013 to 2018. It's fairly easy to imagine how applications could eventually reach the healthcare/medical, automotive, and geo-sensitive construction sectors and any other field that requires information flow in a hands-free setting.

Now, let's peel back the numbers and think about this from the practical supply chain side of things. When you think about the things that have to go into making technology wearable, the list of constraints, possibilities and considerations grows exponentially longer. Designing a computer for your wrist or ankle is different from making a laptop or smartphone, but some of the processes and practices already put in place still apply here.

One of the things worth considering is the long tail effect. Product development, supply chain, and finance executives will have to decide how predicted demand will shape how their companies play in various niche markets that could require many different form factors. Sales could largely vary from one year to the next as a constant stream of new products starts flowing into the market over the next few years.

Soon, too, the bill of the materials could include fabric, graphene, 3D printers, and different kinds of piezoelectric components. It will need coordination and integration of engineering, design, software, hardware, sourcing, procurement, distribution, and logistics capabilities. It may also require significant partnerships with new suppliers who have a greater amount of expertise in wearable technology product development than an OEM may currently have in-house.

Kevin Prendeville, a managing director with Accenture's Product Lifecycle Services practice, writing in this Wearable Tech World blog, points out another obvious area that will have to be addressed: better management of product lifecycles. This, of course, requires some heavy lifting, namely in understanding how your current PLM system works today, how it can be unified into a single enterprise roadmap, and how different internal and external teams can more effectively use PLM to address a wearable technology trend that is on the brink of bigness.

How is your company preparing for this new big thing and its long tail?

42 comments on “The Age of Wearing Technology & Its Long Tail

  1. prabhakar_deosthali
    October 14, 2013

    How will  this wearable technology shape the future of supply chain planning is a big question for the planners but as a technology , I fear such kind of modern wares will denude us more as we wear them. All these intelligent wearable things  will finally join the Internet Of Things and it is anybody's guess how the information , once on the network , can be misused by unscrupulous elements of the society.

  2. _hm
    October 14, 2013

    My big concern for wearable technology is privacy. This technology can be implanted to spy. This will have many legal aspects too.

  3. Lavender
    October 14, 2013

    Despite the advantages wearable devices bring to us, I don't feel optimistic to all equipments. Portable medical devices undoubtedly will see great market potential, but for some others such as wearable computers, wearable glass, is it necessary for consumers to own one?

    Google Glass and Samsung Smartwatch has come out for some time, but the market reflection largely goes beyong previous hype. 

  4. ITempire
    October 15, 2013

    Jennifer, thanks for interesting blog. I agree that wrist-based technology will be the most in demand amongst the various wearable technologies. This I would say for consumer technologies; not sure if wrist-based does best in enterprise technologies as well.

  5. ITempire
    October 15, 2013

    Lily

    “but for some others such as wearable computers, wearable glass, is it necessary for consumers to own one?”

    Few years back we would have thought that is it necessary for consumers to own a smartphone. Like that became the most essential model of communication, I think wearable computers,etc have the potential to rise to that level too.

  6. ITempire
    October 15, 2013

    Prabharkar

    “and it is anybody's guess how the information , once on the network , can be misused by unscrupulous elements of the society.”

    In my opinion, every communication technology has its challenges and security is one of them. However, it is important to see the positives of the technology. Like we have now good authentication tools like biometrics for smartphones, we will good ones for wearable technology as well.

    And yes I agree that wearables can included in the ambit of IoT.

  7. Lavender
    October 15, 2013

    For a computer to be wearable, it should be small, but small devices brings trouble to our using experience, such as reading, browsing or work. 

    Leave aside these functions, why we own a wearable computer when we already have smartphones and tablets PC?

  8. Daniel
    October 15, 2013

    Jenifer, there is no doubt that wearable devices are going to be hit in market. To gear up this business, recently two great innovations had happened; foldable screen and battery. The foldable thin photo voltaic panel (Solar), which can fix over the dress, will help to power the wearable devices while moving.

  9. Daniel
    October 15, 2013

    “Leave aside these functions, why we own a wearable computer when we already have smartphones and tablets PC?”

    Lily, you are right. latest smartphones have the computing power equivalent to a laptop.

  10. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    October 16, 2013

    @prabhakar_deosthali, the security and data questions that the wearable technology creates is huge. I fear that end users are so used to sliding through software agreements that we've gotten out of the habit of questioning how data is going to be used. We're going to have to change our mindset and start requiring more of technology vendors in the area of privacy and data security.

  11. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    October 16, 2013

    @WaqasAltaf, I wonder if this is a gender specific thing… I find myself being more interested in non wrist-based tech myself. I wear a FitBit, and i like it because it is unobtrusive. At the same time, FitBit just came out with a wrist-based offering as it's newest thing so perhaps i am in the minority.

  12. Daniel
    October 16, 2013

    “we've gotten out of the habit of questioning how data is going to be used. We're going to have to change our mindset and start requiring more of technology vendors in the area of privacy and data security.”

    Hailey, I personally feels that mindset of the users has to be changed. Whenever a new technology get productized and marketed, the question of security and privacy populated more. Is it really a concern for common people?

  13. Ariella
    October 17, 2013

    @Hailey I imagine the logic is that people are used to wearing watches (of the ordinary kind) so it's easier to just put something like that in a form that can worn on the wrist for people to not feel like they're wearing something extra.

  14. ITempire
    October 18, 2013

    Hailey

    I will agree with you that most women will prefer a non-wrist based technology. This will be the case unless they are designed as a fashion accessory specifically for women.

  15. Daniel
    October 18, 2013

    'I imagine the logic is that people are used to wearing watches (of the ordinary kind) so it's easier to just put something like that in a form that can worn on the wrist for people to not feel like they're wearing something extra.'

    Ariella, there are certain devices in market, which can worn on the wrist like a wrist watch. Some of them are, LG and Samsung had introduced wrist smart phones. Acquecheck had introduced glucose monitor and insulin pump, which can wear like a wrist watch.

  16. Ariella
    October 18, 2013

    @Jacob that's great news for diabetics. I know a diabetic little girl who carried her supplies in a fanny pack. That could lighten the load for people like her.

  17. Ariella
    October 18, 2013

    @WaqasAltaf you mean because they tend to be so big and not look like jewelry? Well you have CNET to back you up on that. From http://www.wearabletechworld.com/topics/wearable-tech/articles/355819-would-carrie-bradshaw-wear-smartwatch.htm
    “In the world of wearables, it's not enough for a device to simply include whiz-bang features,” writes CNet's Shara Tibkin. “It also has to be stylish, a truth of the fashion world that technology companies haven't always realized. The Google Glass eyewear, for instance, has faced criticism over the somewhat dorky appearance it gives users, and Samsung's initial watches from the '90s looked more like something from 'Star Trek' than 'Sex and the City.'”

  18. Daniel
    October 19, 2013

    'that's great news for diabetics. I know a diabetic little girl who carried her supplies in a fanny pack. That could lighten the load for people like her.'

    Ariella, this is about insulin monitoring and pumping. Tablets and other medicines have to be carry separately.

  19. ITempire
    October 19, 2013

    Ariella

    Thanks for the link.

    Yes size matters in this case. Looking too big a thing on the wrist will be a turnoff for many even if it is light weight. I would modify my words and say that not only women but men will also not be impressed if the wearable technology does not adequate weighs the fashion side of the products.

  20. Ariella
    October 19, 2013

    @Jacob yes, I know they can't give up carrying anything, but it should make what they do need to pack a bit more compact.

  21. _hm
    October 20, 2013

    Wearable technology started with most primitive technology of flashing LEDs with astable mutivirator in late 70s to current state of Google glass or similar. However, there needs to be much more scope for research and innovation.

    All aspects of technology should be achieved for it to be embracced by mass market with real purpose. Hope soon some will come out with wonderful ideas. They may be future king of technology like Apple, Google or like.

    Will winner be from US/Japan or Europe or China/India? It will be interesting to await this wonderful future.

     

  22. Daniel
    October 20, 2013

    “I know they can't give up carrying anything, but it should make what they do need to pack a bit more compact.”

    Ariella, yes it can make the carry bag compactable.

  23. itguyphil
    October 21, 2013

    Don't be ashamed to say it. In a lot of cases, men are just as affected, if not more than women, in the fashion arena.

  24. Adeniji Kayode
    October 22, 2013

    @Jacob,

    You are right on that jacob-common people may not show much concern when it somes to security and privacy but I think they some time do when this devices are put to wrong use or abused.

  25. Adeniji Kayode
    October 22, 2013

    @Lily,

    That is because innovation in the world of smart devices and PC are still far from the final stage.

  26. Adeniji Kayode
    October 22, 2013

    @ WaqasAltaf,

    I agree with you on that, there is more desire to be connected to the rest of the world even when you are on the move and this keeps puting more demand on mobile smart devices which are day by day becoming more sophisticated and less bulky.

  27. Adeniji Kayode
    October 22, 2013

    @waqasAltaf,

    Good point.

    you are right, I agree with you on that.

  28. Adeniji Kayode
    October 22, 2013

    @Lily,

    Life is dynamic, what you do not admire at all is the same thing that is solving a major problem for another.

    It may not be useful to some but you can be sure that its is not totally useless to everybody.

  29. Adeniji Kayode
    October 22, 2013

    @_hm,

    You are right on that but on the other side to that, CIA and FBI may not see anything wrong with that because that can really be of use to them in their investigations.

  30. Adeniji Kayode
    October 22, 2013

    @_hm,

    You are right on that but on the other side to that, CIA and FBI may not see anything wrong with that because that can really be of use to them in their investigations.

  31. Adeniji Kayode
    October 22, 2013

    @Prabhakar,

    I agree with you on that. The truth is that smart devices are yet to get to the final stage – if there would ever be a final stage because we will keep making more discoveries and innovations, our lives depends on that.

    Also, there is nothing good that cannot be abused or misused, but innovations will not because of that hold back. we will keep finding our way around things.

  32. Daniel
    October 22, 2013

    “common people may not show much concern when it somes to security and privacy but I think they some time do when this devices are put to wrong use or abused”

    Adeniji, am not sure, how much you are right about privacy and security. But most of the peoples are bit concerned about it, especially those who holds analogue posts in societies.

  33. Daniel
    October 22, 2013

    “That is because innovation in the world of smart devices and PC are still far from the final stage”

    You are right Adeniji. The best one is yet to come or innovate.

  34. ITempire
    October 24, 2013

    pocharle

    ” men are just as affected, if not more than women, in the fashion arena.”

    🙂 No way more than women. There is no harm is taking interest in fashion as long as it doesn't become your primary objective of life or even one of the primary objectives (in my opinion). For women, fashion might be one of the primary objectives to look good and that's nothing strange or something to be criticized.

  35. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    October 25, 2013

    @waqasAltaf, and women are a considerable market so it may be that some tech companies will target wearables at women if it makes economic sense.

  36. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    October 25, 2013

    @_hm, your comment about the history of wearables got me to thinking. In the 80s digital watches were all the rage and the more techie the looking the better. then when prices went down, those same watches were seen as cheap or even disposable.  I think the arc has begun again, as people have their high tech gear as a status thing. that may be particuarly true in teh fitness arena.

  37. ITempire
    October 26, 2013

    Adeniji Kayode, true. It is truly a challenge for manufacturers and their designers to built such a device that is both excellent in looks, powerful in processing and has all the functionalities which devices today have. And these requirements are being met. To sum up, the technology revolution is really awesome for spectators 🙂

  38. _hm
    October 26, 2013

    @Hailey: Yes, I concur with you. Generally it becomes more fashion symbol when it is from some renowned organizatio (Apple?) and is priced high (three time like Apple). Of couse, it has novel functionalities and some cool features.

    To start, I wolud love to see real perl necklece embedded with all health and communication functionality.

     

  39. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    October 27, 2013

    @_HM, your comment sparked another idea…and i'm not sure if anyone has done it. How about medical alert jewelry that actually looks good, and contains a full medical record and wireless connection to the appropriate medical people. Has anyone seen something like this?

  40. itguyphil
    October 28, 2013

    Caveat to my previous post:

    Not necessarily directly. But men do get affected by the social norms of fashion. Even though they're not following fashion as intently as women do.

  41. Anand
    October 28, 2013

    Recently wearable technology is making its mark in healthcare as arm bands are being developed that monitor the hydration levels of the wearer's body. Also, ultrasonic boots are also being developed independently, for the blind. Wearable technology can actually make humans live more and make them more fit. Not only that, certain eye covers worn during sleeping actually help the person sleep by emitting frequencies that makes the person have a calmer, and deep sleep. Although the author is right, that the architecture for such wearable technology can be different, however as IOTs, a common architecture is being developed, one with a future proof interface.

  42. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    November 7, 2013

    From a recent report from Gartner:

    “Smartglasses with augmented reality (AR) and head-mounted cameras can increase the efficiency of technicians, engineers and other workers in field service, maintenance, healthcare and manufacturing roles,” said Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner. “In the next three to five years, the industry that is likely to experience the greatest benefit from smartglasses is field service, potentially increasing profits by $1 billion annually. The greatest savings in field service will come from diagnosing and fixing problems more quickly and without needing to bring additional experts to remote sites.”

    To read more: http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2618415

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