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Making wearable tech mainstream

April 29, 2015

Christian Michaud   

Senior Vice President, Usage-Based Services, Voice & Mobility

Wearable technology is at an exciting juncture. So far, we’ve seen wearable tech capture the attention of mainstream consumers but mass adoption has yet to happen.

Already, we’ve seen innovation in virtual reality with Oculus Rift, new start-ups like Hexoskin capturing data through clothing, and traditional manufacturers such as watchmakers Montblanc moving into networked technology. We know that the potential for wearable tech to influence our personal and professional lives is tremendous.

So why hasn’t mass adoption of wearable tech happened already?

To me, there are some strong parallels between early smartphone adoption and where wearables are today. Smartphone adoption has been phenomenal around the world but it wasn’t an overnight success. We take for granted the evolution of the smartphone market and the ecosystem that has developed around it.

Smartphone adoption wasn’t just driven by the ability to connect to the internet via your mobile phone. The entire “smart” ecosystem includes an operating system, applications, app stores, connectivity and the functional integration of all of these things. It is a similar ecosystem developing around wearable tech that will drive wider adoption as well as the development of devices and applications that move beyond a single purpose or a single function.

In fitness and healthcare, French start-Up UmanLife is bringing together wearable tech and the Internet of Things (IoT) to give people actionable data about how they live. The company is focused on supporting each individual with the proper means to manage their health and lifestyle. This is just the tip of the iceberg: we’re seeing the emergence of the “quantified self”– the concept of measuring all that is measurable about our health and fitness.

Consequently, a dynamic ecosystem of data that goes beyond just a single source is emerging and includes data created by both users and the things around them. This new layer of analytics comes from multiple sources and is cross-referenced to deliver more accurate and valuable insights into our personal health and fitness, beyond an isolated health tracker. The combination of wearables and IoT is a big step forward that enables a bigger ecosystem of data that in turns creates greater value for users.

Where wearables differ from trends in the smartphone market is in its addressable market. Instead of being a phenomenon owned largely by consumer tech giants, I see wearable adoption being driven by different vertical sectors incorporating wearable technology into their businesses. Instead of consumer tech giants diversifying into multiple verticals, it is the verticals themselves that will become more tech savvy.

We’re already seeing this with watchmakers like Breitling, Bulgari, Tissot and Vector exploring the potential of wearables in their market. When established brands in different verticals begin to develop wearable tech we will see mainstream adoption mushroom. This is why, unlike the smartphone market, this is not a 10-year journey. It is more likely to be two to three years until we see wearable tech really blossom.

Naturally costs will need to come down but also new value will need to be created for the user. The transition from a curiosity to a mainstream phenomenon is happening and as the ecosystem and vertical opportunities grow so will mainstream adoption. Today we see the very beginnings of a technology that is poised to influence almost every vertical with new capabilities, applications and ecosystems.

Where do you see wearable tech going? Leave your comment below