If you can wear it, it can be connected

We may never see the year of wearable technology, in the same way that we didn’t actually see a year of mobile. Nevertheless, wearables will become ever more prevalent in our daily lives the way mobile has. At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), held in Las Vegas, Nevada, wearables took up more than half of the event’s real estate, showcasing smart wristbands, glasses, rings and other jewelry, earplugs, belts, shoes and many more ”smart” gadgets. The driving theme behind technology has become, “if you can wear it, it can be connected”.

There have been many musings in the industry on how brands will connect with consumers of the future, as well as how providing utility is the only way to generate sustained engagement. This is where wearables come into their own and here we will examine some of the top uses in the wearable field.

Health and Fitness

Health and fitness has long been heralded as the best – if not the most achievable and practical – use of wearables. The technology behind these products is not new. In fact, the most instantly recognizable commercial uses to date have been in the fitness category, such as using apps on your phone to track your running distance. The same technology has given rise to smart shirts that can track all muscle movement and vital signs for full monitoring.

The data collected from such technology can open the doors for brands and advertisers. Imagine ads on your phone saying, ”you need to hydrate”, ”looking to bulk up?” and “running footwear to take minutes off your personal best” – all based on your recent activity.

Another example: could this instantly trackable data be used to impact your healthcare insurance costs? Companies would then target both ends of the spectrum with different packages. Your information could potentially be provided to other companies so that they could offer products to improve, change or maintain your lifestyle and habits, all based on the data that is recorded through wearables.

The Giant Tech Elephants in the Room

These thoughts and plans have been around for some time. What’s changing though is that the big boys are now getting involved as the opportunities to commercialize on a mass scale become closer, thanks to technology advances. Some have come to market with simplified, everyday wearables while others feature more futuristic pieces of kit.

The Apple Watch is expected to eliminate the need to constantly fish your phone out of your pocket for the more standard digital activities (such as social updates) and will even let you know if that call you’re receiving is from a family member or a telemarketer. Connecting to the iPhone’s iBeacon system and delivering real-time offers to users based on their proximity to stores could be revolutionary.

Not all of the global giants will get it right, however. Google Glass was supposed to be the next big thing and no one knows for sure whether development has been stopped to make way for a second iteration or not. Microsoft will be hoping for a different outcome with HoloLens, which was announced in the same week that Glass was being discontinued.

HoloLens is approaching the world of holographic computing, where your surroundings are transformed by a headset that allows you to maneuver through it with motion. Augmented reality provides more useful opportunities to integrate technology into your everyday life. Being able to see cars, houses, clothes or any other tangible products through augmented reality could change the way that brands distribute products and consumers buy them… for good.

 All about the wrist

There was a plethora of devices for your wrist on show at CES this year. Before the big screen display watches take over, the current market seems to be focused on smart watches that don’t actually look like smart watches. While Sony, Lenovo, LG and many others have all launched their own versions of a smart watch, Misfit has partnered with Swarovski to launch a luxury activity tracker called Swarovski Shine. It not only looks like a piece of jewelry but also charges itself through exposure to sunlight. Smart, rechargeable jewelry – that definitely sounds like a game changer.

It’s clear that the tech industry feels that wearables are the next big thing, and that we have only seen the beginning of it. Just how life changing this new direction is for both consumers and brands, and who will benefit most, remains to be seen.

Follow Dara on Twitter: @darm

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