For years now, wearables have been all the rage at the Consumer Electronics show. The device that seems to have become synonymous with wearable technology is the smart watch. European market researchers IDATE predicts that sales of wearables are expected to rise from 20 million in 2014 to 123 million by 2018, an staggering increase. In 2015, half of all wearables sold will be smart watches. So while the most popular current wearable is still expected to be very prevalent at this year’s conference, the opportunity is there for brands to claim a stake as a forerunner in other forms of wearables. Indeed, something must represent that other half of those projected sales.
Some companies are finding that their best avenue into the wearables environment is through powerful partnerships. Yesterday’s keynote from Intel CEO Brian Krzanich represented this strategy, as Krzanich unveiled Intel’s new wearable computer, Curie. The button-sized computer can go into anything from rings to pendants to buttons; essentially, any product that can fit Curie inside of it—which is just about anything—can become a wearable. During the speech, Intel unveiled a partnership with Oakley, in the hopes of offering connected eyewear for athletes.
The future of wearable innovation goes beyond simply tracking one’s location, movement, and activity. What about when wearables and robotics intersect? Emiota, a startup out of France, is attempting to find out by unveiling their new smart belt, the aptly-named Belty. The Belty automatically adjusts to a person’s waistline throughout the day, based on how much they have eaten and how much—if any!—exercise they’ve done throughout the day. A small inconvenience like a too-tight belt after a big meal is on the verge of being eliminated, replaced by an automated process. Could shoelaces realize they’re becoming loose and re-tighten before they become fully untangled? Surely, more of these types of innovations are on the horizon.
There are certainly a number of challenges ahead for the wearables industry. Privacy concerns are certainly near the top of the list, as brands will have to find a good balance to be found between being invasive and providing value. Another is the ever-evolving life span of battery power for digital devices. After all, what good is a smart belt or smart shoelaces if their battery needs to be charged every few hours?
But as the first few days of CES have shown, once these kinks can be worked out, wearables will become a fabric of our everyday lives.