2014 was a strange year for wearable technology. In the span of only a few months, Google Glass seemed to go from the most talked about piece of technology to a forgotten relic of the past. In 2015, the Apple Watch captured the attention of the world only to fade away in the same manner of time.
Even as the technology behind these devices rapidly advances each year, the concept of wearable technology has not yet been fully embraced by industries or the average consumer. The popularity of wearable technology thus far has been volatile and its future uncertain.
This begs the question of whether 2016 will bring about the end of the wearable technology craze or vault into undeniable success. Or perhaps it is something in between?
The Problem for General Consumers
The average person has yet to fully grasp the usefulness of wearable technology. This is not because they do not understand its capabilities, but rather because companies such as Google and Apple have yet to convince all consumers that these devices are worthy of their costs.
So far, the Apple Watch has sold 12 million pieces. Compare these numbers to the iPhone, which sold 74.5 million units in Q1 alone last year. These numbers are wholly indicative of how general consumers feel about wearable technology: they see it as an accessory, perhaps functional to a few, but for most not a necessity.
At $349 for the most basic model ($550 for the more advanced models), the Apple Watch is no small purchase for everyday consumers, and it is hard to justify buying one when it is still perceived as an iPhone with a wristband.
It’s All About the Difference in Functionality and Price
Fitness apps are nothing new, and one can easily be downloaded to virtually any smart device on the market. A person’s phone can also be used as a pedometer that works just as well as any other device. Micro sized accelerometers combined with processing power have created a plethora of applications.
Yet despite these simple facts, Fitbit is outselling the Apple Watch at every turn. The difference between the two devices comes down to functionality and price. Fitbits can be purchased for a mere $100, and their uses are clearly defined. It’s still an accessory, but a much more focused and affordable device than the Apple Watch and Google Glass.
Wearable Technology in the Workplace
When it comes to the automation industry, wearable technology is on the rise and still looking strong. Modern HMIs are currently being integrated into both mobile and wearable devices, and both are justifiable purchases for manufacturers and other companies that utilize automated machines.
When it comes to industry workers vs. the common consumer, it appears that wearable technology has a better future in the workplace rather than in the community.
2016 won’t be the year that wearable technology dies, but don’t count on it flourishing either (at least not in the realm of the everyday consumer). While we can expect the technology to be further integrated into the workplace, developers still need to find ways to convince buyers to purchase devices that they don’t necessarily need.
It’s not likely that the Apple Watch or Google Glass will replace smartphones anytime soon.
While the sales of these wearable technologies in the consumer market may not be as strong as some predicted they may be, clearly “special purpose” devices are displacing “general purpose” devices when cost and functionality meet the application needs. This is true in both commercial and industrial products. These products often have a smaller form factor and are easier to implement, find a niche in the application space they serve, have a lower cost, and allow more potential solution alternatives.
How to Learn More
Are you interested in learning more about human machine interfaces, wearable technology, or special purpose devices for the automation industry? Contact AMMC today to see how we can help you with your application needs.