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Taking wearable technology beyond a marketing gimmick!
Wearable technology may not have had a “ubiquitous” influence as yet, but the long term prospect does seem exciting, and holds promises of a brighter future for the wearable devices and gadgets. From the much awaited “Google Glass” to the newly launched Samsung smart-watch, the industry is abuzz with new products and seems on the right track to emerge as a winning technology in the coming years. Players, both big and small, all across the value chain, are battling it out to seize the opportunity and grab a pie in the market. In this article, we attempt to identify the challenges and discuss the future roadmap of the industry.
The major technological barrier that the wearable technology faces is the power and performance of the computing components that go into it. Usually, the main issue revolves around the size, as tiny computing devices essentially need very small computing chips. In recent past, there have been some remarkable developments at the chip-level; and that has, in turn, heated up the processor-war among leading players such as Intel, ARM, and Qualcomm.
Intel was little slow in the “Smartphone” and “Tablet” market; but with the announcement of its smallest-ever silicon chip (a new chip family, Quark), it seems to have arrived at the right time, as the wearable electronics and gadget market are attaining a momentum, off-late. The Quark core is one-fifth the size of the companys existing Atom chips, and is said to use just ten percent of the power of an Atom chip, enabling it to be embedded into tiny devices, including wearable gadgets. The Quark has a fully synthesizable open architecture, which is a remarkable move towards interoperability. This will enable other companies to engineer around its chip and add their own processor. Speaking at the Intel Developer Forum, Brian Matthew Krzanich, the CEO, highlighted that Intel does not intend to manufacture wearable devices, but wants to provide the new chip to other companies for use in their wearable gadgets and devices. Another key market player, ARM, is bullish on ‘internet of things’ and wearable technology. The company’s key initiatives and developments in the last couple of months are revolving around the embedded chip that can go into small wearable devices and also become a cornerstone of connected devices. Similarly, other players such as Qualcomm and Imagination Technologies have made interesting pronouncements in the last few months.
The end-user vertical that seems to be the early adopter of wearable devices is the consumer electronics industry. Host of products, ranging from a smart-watch to smart-glass have already hit the market and are likely to be the key drivers for the wearable technology. However, the larger question that lies is the product differentiation. Wearable gadgets are not going to gain in the longer run, if the functionalities being offered by such devices are nothing new but a copy of those present in other mobility devices such as smart-phones, tablets, and others. Wearable devices need to justify their cost premium by offering tangible benefits to the consumers. Some of the key features that the consumer would prefer paying for, would be an in-built NFC for easy syncing of various devices, authentication, and a unified solution for contact-less payment. This would not only require secure technology platform but would also need to take the payment service providers such as bank into confidence.
As the wearable technology is on its path to take the industry by storm, it has to address data security and privacy concern at the device level. Such gadget can record and store sensitive and private information allowing the wearer to inconspicuously scan sensitive documents and private information. The security concern poses grave threat to the widespread adaptability of wearable technology, both, in consumer and commercial applications.
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Wearable Electronics Market and Technology Analysis (2013 – 2018): By Components (Sensors, Battery, Display, Networking); Applications (Consumer, Healthcare, Enterprise); Products (Smart -Textiles, Glasses, Watches);e-Materials & Geography
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