Wearable electronics: let’s get it right

Wearable electronic device technology is potentially more than just another smartphone accessory, according to a report by Beecham Research.


Isabelle Olsson designed Google Glass

Saverio Romeo, principal analyst at Beecham Research says mistakes are being made by many companies trying to grab a share of the much hyped wearable technology opportunity.

Romeo says it is wrong to take  a smartphone-centric view of wearable technology, and he sees wearable tech as playing a critical role in the drive to the Internet of Things.

“While these devices may have some smartphone functionality, they will be much more than smartphones,” said Romeo.

According to the report, 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. 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.”

In its Wearable Technology report, Beecham Research forecasts that the market is currently on course to be worth some $3bn by 2018.

But with greater collaboration, Beecham believes that 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,” said Romeo.

It is crucial that wearable products go beyond smart watches and glasses and find 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 glamour.


Hovding invisible helmet

The report 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 where Beecham Research sees 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.

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