Technology, wearable and how!

27 Feb,2013



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By Gowthaman Ragothaman


Apple has already transformed two industries: music and computing. Now, as the company reportedly attempts the redefinition of the watch – one of man’s oldest pieces of technology – the next phase of the techno revolution is hoving into clear view: welcome to the age of “wearable tech”, with a gadget available to cater to your every need. Inevitably nicknamed the iWatch, the Apple device, on which the company is characteristically not commenting, has the tech world in a frenzy of sci-fi speculation. But the internet revolution seems to have largely bypassed the watch, until now.


Apple reportedly has 100 employees looking at the device that will take advantage of recent developments in high tech curved glass, cheaper sensors and better voice recognition software. The company will want to make a splash. Especially as arch-rival Google has its own “smart watch” in development and is already testing Google Glass, web-connected specs.


Google co-founder Sergey Brin was recently snapped on the New York subway wearing the glasses and looking like a tourist in town for the marathon. Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook too are watching developments and have their own plans. Last year analyst Forrester issued a report describing wearable computing as “the new platform war”.


“Most of all, an Apple iWatch will immediately make the behaviour of wearing your tech acceptable, just like Siri created a new social norm of talking to your phone like it’s a person,” said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester Tech analyst.


Juniper Research estimates that wearable computing will generate $800m (£500m) in revenue this year and $1.5bn in 2014. Annual unit sales of wearable computers will rise from15m this year to 70m by 2017. IMS research has claimed that wearable technology market will be worth $6bn by 2015.


Watch out for Smart Watches

Meanwhile, others have already blazed a trail for smart watches.


Pebble, a smart watch company, raised a record $10.26m from funding site Kickstarter last year. The watch will link to iPhones and devices running Google’s Android mobile program, letting you know who is calling, taking text messages and showing emails. It will also run new apps, such as acting as a bike computer for cyclists.


Former Apple CEO John Sculley and business partner Sonny Vu have a new venture called Misfit Wearables that has developed an activity tracker that will send all your data to your favoured device. Sculley has been mentoring healthcare experts in recent years, one of many Silicon Valley stars increasingly interested in the intersection between health and technology. Vu is an entrepreneur who thinks a lot about how a well-designed mobile device can affect health. As a cofounder of the medical-device company AgaMatrix, he created the first FDA-approved glucose sensor that plugs into an iPhone; it hit Apple stores this month under the brand name iBGStar. The company raised $7.6 million this year from prominent investors, including Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and VinodKhosla, following seed investment from the Cambridge incubator IncTank Ventures. Vu says he’s even been invited to brief Bill Gates, who-like other technology leaders-is seeking to understand when, and how, computers will become wearable.


Governments around the world are pouring money into wearable tech. US soldiers in Afghanistan have been testing a device called the shoulder worn acoustic targeting system (SWATS), developed by British tech firm QinetiQ, that can pinpoint the exact location of gunfire and display it on a small screen attached to a soldier’s body armour. Devices are also being used to monitor soldiers’ health, such as their hydration levels, and to augment their vision. Many of these technologies are likely to filter down to civilian life.


Britain’s Cambridge Temperature Concepts has developed a portable fertility monitor that can measure a woman’s body temperature 20,000 times a day at a precision of a thousandth of a degree.


Apps are in development that will monitor for heart attacks and strokes – wearable tech could soon be like possessing a portable doctor. Earlier this week, Under Armour officially unveiled Armour39, its next generation of wearable technology. Armour39 is an athletic performance monitoring system that measures “what matters most: WILLpower”. WILLpower is Under Armour’s proprietary measurement for how hard an athlete pushes him or herself during a workout on a scale of 1-10, taking into account heart rate, calories burned and past performances, among other things.


Amid all the technology-driven excitement, privacy advocates are increasingly concerned. Watchdog group Privacy Rights Clearinghouse is compiling a report on the safety of data generated from mobile devices. Director Beth Givens warns that people need to be very careful about the ways in which they adopt the technology. “You need to read their privacy policy. Quite a lot of these companies just plain don’t have one. There is always an issue with secondary users of the data. Who else is seeing this? Employers? Insurance companies?” she says. Much of this data will be stored in the “cloud” – streaming to remote servers, which Givens warns, “are not inherently secure”.


And this is just the start. Google’s glasses will potentially be watching your every move.


Gowthaman Ragothaman is CEO South and South East Asia, Mindshare



9 trends to watch out for

1. Watches enjoy a renaissance as accessories

A host of connected smart watches will emerge in 2013, with the phone becoming a new digital hub in this “personal body network”. Media poster child Pebble will be the tipping point for early adopters, while MuteWatch 2.0 looks likely to push functionality to new levels. But creators face tough product choices between form and functionality, making 2013 the most interesting year in watches for decades. Meta Watch, for example, has taken the path of following form instincts, while Basis chases a pure functionality route. For the past 80 years form has won – will 2013 turn things in the other direction for watches? Smart-watch makers could stumble on a killer app?


2. Functional jewelry as armbands takes off

The functional arm and wristbands pioneered by Nike FuelBand and Jawbone Up are setting a powerful trend and sidestepping the functional and aesthetic legacy of wristwatches. A flood of new wristbands is emerging such as Disney World’s Magic Band, which stores guest information and acts as ticket, room key, ride pass and more. The smartest bands will track a user’s pulse, sleep patterns and more, helping to paint a holistic picture of wellness. However, a high degree of style will become increasingly important as functionality becomes standardized. Luxury brands like Vertu will create iPhone accessories costing far more than any phone. But flexible or curved ultra-bright OLED screens remain in the lab for another year. Luxury brands might enter the functional armband space with Waterproof designs & Wrist-based pulse sensors


3. Audio wearables shape luxury electronics

Prominent headphones have become a must-have accessory of the street-smart digerati, while in-ear systems are also pushing looks and fidelity to new levels. Now the pre-existing luxury brands are taking notice of these shifts. But changing the distribution landscape will be a challenge, and the traditional pure audio brands will start to feel the squeeze. New high-end edgy brands like Monster, Jawbone and Parrot are shaping the market, while Logitech UE will continue to make a dent with a great price/quality/style ratio. The high margins of a luxury product, combined with niche tech desirability will be the goal with luxury brands marketing themselves in the electronics sector? Will the breadth of the $250+ headsets grow?


4. Sensors will connect our everyday objects

Retrofitting smartness into everyday objects is one of the most fascinating trends we will be living through. It’s where the Internet of Things and wearable technology converge. The beauty of this is that it gives users the power to decide which objects should be made smart, and developers can create the optimal software to track it: keys, a jacket – even your car. Pill-shaped, cube-shaped and stickers will be typical form factors. The Nike+ sensor pills were simply the “Neanderthal” stage of this development. Bluetooth 4.0 is a crucial enabler, taking everyday objects into a new world. Pioneering telecom companies to launch early solutions. Value to be unlocked in visualizing data based on objects around us.


5. Wearables get dressed up

The Fitbit Zip and Misfit Shine are the first generation of transformational wearables that can be “dressed” with covers and ornamentation. We’ll see this trend rapidly extend to more products: for example, footwear covers for bicycling, or watertight wristband covers for swimming, as well as styledriven covers for social situations. Initially the covers will be non functional, but eventually they will inform the wearable inside, enabling instant adaptation of sensor software. We will see covers become more valuable than the sensors they encase. Hobbyists produce covers for online sale. Jewellery partnerships for style covers emerge.


6. Sensor platform wars begin in the bedroom

The quantified self-movement is the living lab of the wearables business, with thousands of personal guinea pigs tracking everything in their lives. Owning a personal data platform is seen as a strategic control point, but monetization remains unclear. There is the question of who owns the habit-creating interface. Withings’ smart scale has moved into the bedroom, aiming to shape daily habits and becoming a clear trendsetter here. My data, and how can it be used, remains in flux, as handsets strive to gather ever richer levels of information. How are proprietary platforms of Nike, Fitbit and Withings opening up to developers? Will platforms like Evernote create Evernote Life? Can open source platforms gain momentum in time? Will we see context-aware phones in the second half of 2013?


7. Apps make wearables’ data actionable

Wearables will also begin to disrupt app development. This has already started with fitness apps, and is set to branch out to life recording and social features. And although users may perceive the cloud and the PC interface as mainly a passive back up for their data, these will also become crucial for community data analysis and social media enablement. Development platforms are now mature, and will soon provide additional sensors for data collection. The phone becomes the new digital hub, as its bigger canvas allows for more personality and a bigger overview, and high-resolution screens help enable rich data visualizations. Will Jawbone UP app overhaul? Will popular apps get sensor front ends (home sensors, scales, bike pods). Will leading app creators like RunKeeper create own line of wearables to increase loyalty? Will Facebook come to you, on a wearable?


8. Sensors in labs reveal our souls

Sensor development is exploding in labs and startups around the world. For example, the Muse headband provides a realtime view of the brain emotionally shaping your e-mails, while the Vibe necklace shows your stress levels – and these are just the beginning. We will see 6-axis and 9-axis accelerometers. New forms of wrist based pulse sensors will make pulse reading an everyday thing. Hacks of favorite objects will emerge in new forms like Oyster card rings. These are providing inspiration for the future and most importantly they are simply ideal platforms for learning. How will the ear be used as a sensor hub? Will we see the first flexible display? Will we change our habits from 5,000 readings per second?


9. Google glass becomes a social transformer

Transforming sunglasses from a fashion accessory into a functional interface will herald a social revolution. Google’s decision to build Project Glass “in public” is a brave one, as changing consumer perceptions will take years. That’s partly because the intimacy of an embedded user interface transforms all our perceptions of privacy. We can’t assume that everyone will readily accept being recorded all the time, or will welcome the idea of an interface between them and the world at every point. Hopefully Google will have the patience to persevere, while inviting early adopters to participate in 2013 should steer Project Glass in new creative directions. What will be the reactions from the earliest adopters? What will be the direction, size and profile of the privacy movement? What will be the user behaviour around recording and recollection. How will developers respond? How will Luxottica react? Some of the key companies/startups/organisations to watch out for are: Pebble, MetaWatch, Basis, Jawbone Up, MagicBand, Monster, Parrot, Logitech, Fitbit Zip (living healthier and fitter lives), Misfit Shine, Withings, Finis (Data tracking Swimming) &Impire (Sensor technology in Football)


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