The worth of wearable devices

The value of wearable devices will be determined by the problems they can solve. So what solutions will wearable devices deliver to us in the years to come?

A traditional timepiece next to a Pebble watch

(Hat tip to Albert Lynn for the photo)

Wearable devices have been labelled the biggest trend in tech. The chatter revolves around what wearable devices can do right now and the speculation focuses on what real uses they will have in the future.

The current state of wearable devices

Google Glass and the Pebble watch are two widely known wearable devices on the market. But the race is on as more companies experiment with other wearables and introduce their own eyewear, smart watches and other devices.

At the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, CEO Brian Krzenich of Intel gave the keynote speech. He explained what Intel is offering in wearable devices and introduced the Edison chip, ‘a full Pentium class computer crammed on an SD card.’

Edison will serve as a foundation on which future wearable devices can be built. Essentially, this chip can make accessories and garments smart. It will be released to developers in the middle of the year and Intel is offering a substantial reward for the most innovative use.

No matter how innovative its function however, we still have expectations for what our technology looks like. The main complaint against wearable devices is the lack of aesthetic appeal. But the current look of wearable devices is most likely short-lived. Think about the first computer. It was certainly not sleek, but still warranted the word innovative.

So, where will all this innovation fit into our world?

Wearable devices in the workplace

The acceptance of wearable tech in the workplace makes sense. Google Glass could help off site emergency personnel or an electrician transmit a first person view of an issue and save a return trip or even someone’s life. A resident at a hospital could train by watching surgery from the surgeon’s point of view.

The flexibility of uses wearable devices can be put to allows them to be specialised for use in the professional world. No one thinks twice about the fashion sense in a uniform hat or badge in a setting where function takes precedence over form.

However, the meeting of form and function down the road will not go unappreciated by workers and managers alike as the workplace works to give wearable devices a future.

Outside the workplace though, the story is a little different.

Consumer interest

Households may not adopt wearable devices as quickly. Smart security and audio-visual systems make a number of households smart and are just becoming affordable enough to be commonplace.  The market for smart houses certainly exists, so the market for wearable devices may come in time.

At CES, Krzenich displayed the Edison chip attached to a child’s onesie. The chip relayed the baby’s vitals to two smart coffee mugs. The implication is that the chip attached to clothes and accessories can do more for people than a smart phone can.

For wearable devices to be commonplace, they will have to have an everyday use. Now begins the challenge of turning the possible into the practical.

A technology at the starting line

For wearable technology to find a place in the world, it has to appeal to people, provide a solution to a real problem or measurably improve the way we do something. The chip, the smart watches and eyewear, the experiments and the failures represent the starting line for wearable devices.

It’s easy to see wearable devices have a future in the workplace, and that will most likely be the arena that leads the way, but eventually they’ll be found in the home too. It’s hard to predict exactly what sort of devices people will adopt, but wearables are clearly no fad. In one form or another, they’re going to be a given for future generations.

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