Madeleine Bruce investigates whether wearable tech marks a new stage in human communication and finds out who’s leading the way in the industry…
Prior to 3500BC, back before even our great-great-grandparents roamed the globe, communication could be found in the form of paintings created by indigenous tribes. Fast forward a few thousand years and you’ll find the emergence of Egyptian hieroglyphics, the alphabet as created by the Phoenicians, and the upsurge in mass communication as enabled by developments in printing. By 1450, Gutenberg’s printing press was the here-and-now of communicative “technology”, and from then on there was no stopping us…
The telegraph, Morse code, the telephone, the phonograph, mobile telephone, SMS, email, instant messaging… It’s all evidence of the human obsession with communication. Now, with the Apple Watch and other wearable tech on the horizon we’re wondering what will be brought to the table in 2014 that we’ve not yet seen.
An understatement though it may be, we’ve come a long way from the communicative ways of the past. Technology through the ages has been formed, molded, upgraded and disbanded to enable us to communicate with one another. However, emerging wearable technology devices appear to be heading in the direction of self communication rather than interaction with the masses (we’re talking health, well-being and fitness monitors such as the Nike Fuelband) by which we can keep track of our humanity (oh, the irony).
The ability to interact and communicate with our technology and with others through the powers of our technology appears to be the secret to tech success. IDTechEx, market research specialists, predict that the wearable tech industry will rocket from over $14 billion in 2014 to over $70 billion in 2024. Wearable tech will purportedly primarily be a success in the health sector; sport super-giants such as Nike, Reebok and Adidas are all in on the wearable action.
This week, Apple’s confirmation of the upcoming Apple Watch caused an almighty stir in the virtual social world. #AppleLive trended heavily on social channels worldwide, along with #AppleWatch, #iPhone6 and #iPhone6Plus. However, when looking at the global state of wearable tech, it becomes apparent that although Apple are indeed a tech giant, they’re in no way the leaders of the global wearable tech-o-sphere. They’re just the best at getting the world to talk about it.
Unsurprisingly, the landslide leaders in global wearable tech are largely based in North America. Almost 50 percent of the developing and manufacturing of wearable tech within the health sector comes out of North America. A variety of footwear, headwear, wristwear and legwear has emerged out of the US in the onset of the wearable technology takeover. Google Glass was the product with most notable impact. Although an outcry against potential privacy infringements perhaps tarred the reputation of Glass as a product, research still predicts that it’ll be a Box Office hit when it eventually rolls out for public purchase.
While North America enjoy their spot at the top of the wearable tech-pile, the rest of the world is gearing up to knock them off their top spot. East Asia hold almost a quarter of the health and fitness wearable tech market; Samsung’s Galaxy Gear comes with an array of features similar to Apple’s effort, promising to be a strong contender in the wearables game. Plus, South Korean startup Ybrain are developing a headband to tackle Alzheimer’s disease for release in 2015, a huge technical leap for health and well-being. Judging by the rate of progress in wearables in East Asia, North America will need to adjust to hold its title.
As the world looks on, the ways in which we communicate with each other and with our own bodies is transforming before our eyes. At the predicted rate of progress, wearable technology will explode onto the scene, following its slow beginnings in the world of the consumer. Apple’s offering is sure to bring the technology to the mass market with a bang, although their reign over the technology could be set to slip as emerging rivals out of East Asia promise to content for the wearables throne.
The conversation continues…
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