The Biggest Challenges to Wearable Technology

Recently at the 2014 AT&T Developer Summit, the focus was primarily on wearable technology and the impact of will have on society in the near future.  While the Galaxy Gear and Google Glass were both notable flops in 2013,  the participants in the 2014 hackathon showed that there is still hope for the technologies. Additionally the panel at the breakout session on wearable technology provided attendees with insights on the topic.

Areas of Growth

One of the biggest reasons the Galaxy Gear and Google Glass have flopped to date is primarily because they don’t effectively integrate with the wearers lifestyle.  Aside from the devices being cumbersome, they are also complicated and difficult to use.

As wearable technology matures,  expect to see manufacturers to focus on transparent designs which blend into the wearer’s lifestyle.  Consumers want to be able to personalize their devices to fit their lifestyle. Unfortunately the biggest challenge to this is that engineers and designers will need to  become somewhat familiar with fashion in addition to product design.

Biggest Challenges

Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors on processors doubles every two years therefore increasing power.  Unfortunately higher processor performance means more power demanded,  however battery makers have yet to make long lasting compact batteries. This means that the biggest obstacle to complex wearables today is the size of the battery. To compensate for this, developers will need to embrace coding best practices to reduce battery use.

Competition usually drives innovation however it can be harmful in some situations. Most notably a lack of common standards between wearables is going to make it difficult for users to make sense of the data from different devices. While we currently have significant fragmentation, cloud technology will allow for data to be stored in a central hub while standardization will eventually allow for seamless communication between devices.

Privacy is another major challenge wearable manufacturers will need to tackle. Aside  from the risk of people catching sensitive video and audio, wearable technology provides third-parties with access to data which has never been taped before. Biometrics, whereabouts of users  and even vitals (heart beats, blood pressure, brain activity, etc.) are areas where manufacturers have yet to set boundaries on how the data can be used to benefit both the consumer and the vendor.

Changes to Expect

Currently we are in the ugly phase of wearable technology – the field is brand new and as such, vendors have yet to fully develop practical systems which benefit the users. Once companies start to refine the technology, the aesthetics will improve, however  as mentioned earlier, batteries will always remain a major obstacle to designing attractive hardware.

In the coming years, expect vendors to focus heavily on making the human body a user interface for technology. This means that rather than relying on a keyboard and mouse to control devices, computers will instead rely on gestures and even brain activity to control devices. Essentially humans will be able to augment themselves and literally become part of the technology that surrounds you. As with most other forms of technology, things will become much more cheaper as time goes on.