Wearables Are Not A Fad

One of the key questions asked by pundits attempting to read the tea-leaves of technology, is whether wearable computers have a viable future. According to Cisco’s Chief Futurist, Dave Evans, speaking at the Wearable Technology Expo in London this week, they do. “Wearables are not a fad, but are part of a larger continuum” says Evans. He believes their rapid adoption, will be powered by an equally rapid growth in cloud-connected computing services.

“Connections turn dumb things into intelligent things, and the cloud has unlimited computing power” says Evans. It is this connectivity, which will transition wearables, from devices that “know what you are doing” to ones that “understand how you are doing it.”

 Hype, Hope And Guesswork

The wearables market has grown quickly and is estimated to be worth around £1.75 billion a year. There are indications it could reach £43 billion within the next decade, but even these projections, may be conservative. For now, it is mostly, hype, hope and guesswork.

There have been early successes, with activity tracking and fitness devices. Fitbit’s Flex, Jawbone’s Up, Nike’s Fuelband and Misfit’s Shine amongst others. The Kickstarter funded Pebble smartwatch has done well, selling over 400,000 units and earning $60 million, since January 2013. Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, has tested the water of mass adoption. Google’s Glass, hovers on the near horizon. There are many others coming.

Right now, wearables have yet to fully define themselves. There are no standards and form-factors are in flux. Yet, those who see wearable computing purely in terms of what the market is currently offering, may be missing the point. Speakers at the 2 day expo in London, were keen to point out, that devices like activity trackers and smartwatches, are merely appetisers, for the wearable banquet of tomorrow.

 Your Greeting Card Is A Supercomputer!

Technology companies are betting big on wearables. This week, Google announced Android Wear, its wearable computing platform for smartwatches. Intel showed off Edison, a full-blown computer on something the size of an SD card. Apple is strongly rumoured to be entering the market and has been (semi-secretly) stashing patents for some time. The ground for a world of wearables, is being very firmly laid.

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The technology of today, is millions of times faster than that used a few decades ago. Its physical volume is decreasing by a hundredfold every ten years. Advances in Moore’s Law, mean that todays musical greeting cards, have processors 800X faster than ENIAC, the world’s first supercomputer.

“If in 1946, you’d have gone to your local retailer and said, I’d like to buy the amount of computing power in that greeting card. The shopkeeper would have said great that’ll be $4.4 billion dollars.” jokes Evans. His point is, that computing processor power has continued to grow exponentially whilst falling in cost, and decreasing in size. Even as we begin reaching the limits of what can be done with available transistor technologies, quantum computing is hovering on the near-horizon.

Evans tells his audience, “If you do the math and fast-forward a little bit longer, in about two and a half decades, the power of your smartphone, will fit inside something the size of a red blood cell”

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