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Are you wary of wearable tech?

August 17, 2015

Christian Michaud   

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

At Unpacked 2015 last week, Samsung revealed the first images of its new Gear S2 smartwatch, set to launch next month at IFA 2015. Christian Michaud tells us why we’re right to be sceptical about wearable tech. 

A few months ago, I published a post discussing the realities concerning the mass adoption of wearable tech, which became the subject of passionate debate, provoking both positive and negative opinions.

I think that says a lot about where the wearable tech industry is today and it is fascinating to see Gartner’s hype cycle in action. We are nearing the peak of inflated expectations when it comes to wearables and there’s a mix of both excitement and disappointment. Some people see the potential, while others have dismissed wearables as useless pieces of technology that are living off the hype.

I can understand both of these perspectives.

On one hand,  IDC forecasts that by 2019 the total shipment volumes of wearable devices will reach 126.1 million units, resulting in a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45.1%. That’s a huge leap in wearable devices on the market and this may even be a conservative estimate as more applications and use cases are developed.

On the flip side, I think it’s absolutely essential that we are sceptical of new technologies and the role they will play in our lives. In fact, it is our responsibility to be. Not all technology products will change the world and we need to be critical of their value.

Some commenters said they’d never use Google Glass and dismissed wearables all together. While I agree that Google Glass was not ready, I was impressed by Google’s decision to put its commercial ambitions on hold. It showed patience that we don’t always see with new technologies. It has a vision for the product, but is exploring new ways to approach and develop a technology that can take users into the slope of enlightenment and on to the plateau of productivity.

In the case of wearable tech, the privacy concerns are huge. There are downsides in terms of misuse of private data and a significant amount of work will need to be done to ensure that user data is controlled and protected. On the other hand, this data can support new discoveries and better services, especially in health care and monitoring.

Even with the privacy risks, it doesn’t mean we can dismiss the technology outright. It means work needs to be done while we explore where it will show utility and create new value for users, enterprises and society.

The wearable technology concept is bigger than just one product. I can see use cases that are as diverse as health monitoring for home-based care, wearable cameras in policing, and virtual reality learning in the classroom. The potential for wearables is vast. It isn’t just about consumer electronics but new innovation across industry sectors.

I challenge you to think about what wearable technology has the potential to change your life in five years. How will you be applying it in your personal and professional life, and ultimately, will it add value? Leave your comments below.