Technology is becoming wearable and smart business leaders must adapt their thinking to survive this new wave of disruption. We've assembled a collection of the hottest wearables executives should take a look at.
why do wearables matter?
Forrester Research claims 52 percent of business leaders think "implementing a strategy for and in support of wearable computing devices is of critical or high priority". IHS estimates nearly 90 million wearable devices will be sold in 2015.
Wearables have implications across health, communications, identity and access control, movement tracking, big data, fitness, payments and future user interfaces. The following products should provide a sense of these implications:
1. Withings Pulse ($120)
There's a host of activity trackers from Nike+, Fitbit, Jawbone and others, we like the Withings Pulse, not only because it's super rugged and ready to wear anywhere you like, but also because the company seems focused on ensuring its devices are compatible with a broad selection of platforms, meaning the data (steps, distance, calories, sleep cycle, heart rate and blood oxygen levels) that Pulse captures can easily be exported to your choice of app. Pulse also integrates social and reward-based motivational tools.
2. Sensoria Smart Socks ($59)
Everyone gets socks at Christmas, right? So why not get smart socks? The splash proof Sensoria socks host a built in accelerometer, and pressure sensors and work with a Bluetooth-connected anklet and your smartphone. In use these gather all kinds of data about your movement: steps, cadence, distance, GPS, ascent/descent, pace, calories burnt and more. They also monitor how you land your feet, giving you advice to improve your gait. All this data feeds into an app on the smartphone from which it can be shared with other apps (and medical professionals) using solutions such as Apple Health.
3. Hexoskin Smart Shirt ($199)
It's the bleak midwinter so Hexoskin's Arctic Smart Shirt could interest anyone exploring the great outdoors. Designed to operate in low temperatures, the shirt gathers heart rate, breathing and acceleration data that it syncs back to iOS/Android devices using an app, and also to the Web. Even without the tech it's a pretty good sports shirt, offering heat insulation, breathability, and odor-resistance. The sensors were developed in partnership with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency.
4. Google Glass
Google Glass (c.£1,000) may have its limitations as a consumer product; conceptually, however, it shows what is possible with wearables. Integration with Android apps sets the bar for a heads=up display (HUD) system, while philosophical/societal discussions concerning user privacy when surrounded by discreet video surveillance technologies are becoming ever more relevant. Next stage, mind control…?
5. Neurosky MindWave Headset ($79.99)
Mind control of your devices is closer than you think. The MindWave headset measures brainwave signals and monitors attention and relaxation levels. It ships with ten apps to show what it can do, and development tools for designing new apps. SaaS machine translation integrator, SpeechTrans is developing a baseball cap that uses MindWave's technology. Wear the cap and you can already control iPhones, Android or Google Glass with thought and gesture. This mind control solution is likely to ship in 2015, so take a look at MindWave to get a sense of what's to come.
6. Speechtrans Bluetooth Wristband Watch ($99)
To get to grips with SpeechTrans, take a look at its Bluetooth-connected wristband. This provides better speakers and microphone for smartphones, tablets or Mac/PC and is built for use with SpeechTrans tech, which is integrated within popular teleconferencing suites HP MyRoom and Intelliconference Enterprise, as well as in apps for every platform. What does it bring you? Essentially the wearable provides a natural user interface for conference calls, boosted by near instantaneous machine language translation and transcription of what's said in 44 languages.
7. Cuff - Smart Jewelry (from $49)
The Cuff range of smart wearables integrates with iOS and Android to provide you with discreet notifications, activity tracking and an alarm button. Available March 2015, the tiny unit fits inside a range of jewelry and vibrates when you receive a message or call. It also watches activity levels and boasts an alert button. Press the button if you're in trouble and Cuff will send help messages (including location data and audio) to preselected friends to help get help fast.
8. Smart Key (£39.95)
Never lose your keys with Elgato's Smart Key. Once paired your phone will alert you whenever you move too far away from your keys, helping ensure you don't lose them. It doesn't stop there: SmartKey also shows you where your keys were last in range on a map, and will show you where they are once you get near. Also useful to find your car at the parking lot or track your bags as they go through baggage control.
9. Everykey ($75)
Speaking of keys take a look at Everykey on crowdfinding platform Kickstarter. It is an access device wristband that remembers your digital passwords so you don't have to, and also works to replace a physical key. It looks like a Jawbone activity tracker and connects via Bluetooth. When you are near a computer, smartphone or other recognized device that needs unlocking the band will unlock things for you, and of course lock them again when you leave, just so long as the system can identify you.
10. WÜF Smartcollar
Wearable technology isn't confined to humans. The rugged, bite- and waterproof WÜF smart collar attaches to any collar or harness to track activity and GPS, and also provide two way audio. The app offers training and feeding tips and the GPS should make your pooch easier to find. This Kickstarter project is half-funded at time of writing.
I hope you've enjoyed this short round up of wearables, which could impact almost every part of daily life, and that's inevitably going to have an effect on your business.
Jon Evans is highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men’s interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.