Wearables, the next major revolution

Published by Ignacio Alonso Consumer Electronics

“Wearables” is the trend we have seen after the latest Mobile World Congress to become mainstream. From a market niche leaded by startups, big players like Samsung, Qualcomm, Huawei or ZTE are arriving and it seems they’re playing hart. Smart watches, health bands and different small gadgets go mainstream.

At the same time there is an undeniable fact with these devices. Users don’t seem to find them that useful overall. Two examples sustain this statement:

  • Jawbone Fitbit and Nike FuelBand users on average abandon daily use of the band after only 3-6 months.
  • Best Buy registered its overall reimbursement record with the Galaxy Gear watch launch. Samsung claims that it was a matter of misinformation about which models were compatible with the watch.

So are wearables doomed and should they be seen only as a temporary trend?

By all means no in my opinion.

First there is a hardware revolution right around the corner. In a six month timeframe I think we can expect to see important advances in this technology. As an example Google is working on a smartwatch OS that Motorola and LG are currently using for future developments and we expect Apple and Microsoft to make a move in this boosting market.

There is also a strong “verticalization” and specialization on the market, different hardware pieces focused on sports, health, content... The key is to provide very well defined value proposition instead of a generic monitoring.

The challenge is integration. Being able to mesh together all the huge amount of information received from these devices in a central interface. Here we talk about the semantics of data.

To illustrate, let’s say a user has a chrome cast at home for viewing television content and internet access. It’s not a wearable but it affects how you connect to the world around you through a health band or a smartphone.

My smartphone, my sports band, my internet hub and other relevant information like how much I sleep or what I eat all mesh into a semantic that allows to help me gain insight into leading a healthy life.

My health band will give me counselling such as “when you stay up and watch TV until after 10 your blood pressure raises”, or “you had too much for dinner and therefore it doesn’t let you sleep well”.

These type of easy to follow tips that positively impact your life are the life changing improvements ahead. In sports you will get tips like “you trained worse because your last meal was rich in fats”, or tracking correct sleeping habits.

The first step in this revolution is integration. These information collection hubs will need to be able to collect information from any device and take action.

For example when I drive somewhere in the countryside to go for a hike or a run, I want my connected car to ‘talk’ to my smartphone and notice when I’m six minutes away and turn on the AC so the car is cool when I arrive.

Or for my car to detect when I’m close to home to turn on the heating. Or if I’m at the supermarket for my phone to be connected to my smart refrigerator that reminds me we ran out of butter yesterday and emails me a reminder of my shopping list.

It is necessary for brands to abandon utopian positions. It is not realistic to expect a user to have all the devices from a single brand. The selling point of devices will shift from brand loyalty to usefulness of that device in these integrated environments.

To have a car connected to the phone advising you where the cheapest petrol station is because it knows your current location is what gives users the added value of having Telefonica giving you a connectivity that ties all these connected elements together.

This will also extend the lifecycle of wearables that will stop being geeky gadgets and become bits and pieces of our everyday lives.

Ignacio Alonso
Global Head M2M Consumer Electronics - Telefonica Digital

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