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Technology alone will not drive the success of wearable devices

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The report highlights mistakes being made by many companies trying to grab a share of the much hyped wearable tech opportunity and provides a very different vision and set of predictions, compared with much of today’s thinking.

“Current market forecasts are based on a smartphone-centric view of wearable technology,” says Romeo. “We see wearable tech as playing a critical role in the drive to greater connectivity and the Internet of Things, where we will interact with intelligent spaces through wearable devices. But while these devices may have some smartphone functionality, they will be much more than smartphones.”

Beecham believes that there is excessive excitement about technology and not enough attention to image, branding and consumer needs. “There is a real difference between making technology wearable versus making technology products that are desirable and genuinely engage with consumers through good design practice,” said Claire Duke-Woolley, fashion technology analyst at Beecham and co-author of the report.

“Unless there is a holistic morphing of technology and aesthetics we will not harness the full potential of wearable tech innovation,” says Duke-Woolley. “It’s time for the fashion industry to embrace technology and for tech companies to realise that they can’t do it on their own and need the knowledge and influence of major fashion brands.”

It is forecasted that the market is currently on course to be worth some $3bn by 2018. But with a true multidisciplinary approach and greater collaboration, the market can accelerate and has the potential to be worth $9.3bn by 2018.

The report points to recent developments at Apple and the partnership between Google and Luxottica as positive examples of how multidiscipline relationships can be forged. But it also recognises the challenges for smaller start-ups in the wearable tech space.

“Wearable technology start-ups are feeding the market with innovative ideas and creative uses of technologies, but they are not addressing other important issues, from security to business models,” explains Romeo. This has led Beecham Research to develop a product evaluation framework that analyses products from different angles such as technology, design, security and privacy, along with business and retailing models.

This multidisciplinary thinking also enables Beecham Research to argue that wearable products are going beyond smart watches and glasses and finding their way into a wider range of applications across eight key sectors: business operations, safety and security, medical, wellness, sport and fitness, lifestyle computing, communications and glamor.

While companies such as Samsung and others offering smart watches prefer a more technology-centric approach, Beecham Research points to the new Withings Activité that mergers Parisian design with Swiss watch-making to create desirable, stylish and functional products. It also highlights the collaboration between Fitbit and Tory Birch as an example of how the fitness market is moving beyond the functionality of traditional products. 

Another sector seeing progress is in smart clothing and textiles, from the likes of Cute Circuit and Wearable Experiments, along with Studio XO, which exemplifies the right ethos and multidisciplinary approach, but is still to move beyond the couture end of the market.

“The wearable technology market is at an exciting tipping point, but moving on an almost pure technology-centric trajectory; and wearable devices are not just about technology,“ said Romeo. 

“We can’t let wearable technology kill the fashion tech market before it’s established,” adds Duke-Woolley. “The market is still wide open for trail blazing products that deliver desire, image and perceived value; and it is greater knowledge share between the technology and fashion industries that is the key to success.”

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