Wearable technology is one of the hottest trends in tech in 2014. Demand for fitness technology, just a small segment of this new category, is expected to quadruple this year, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).
The miniaturization of microprocessors and sensors have enables electronics to be combined with everyday accessories such as clothing, watches, and eyeglasses. The trend is also moving consumers and the marketplace towards a “connected homes and integrated tech” paradigm in which smart appliances can have complex interactions with a user.
Wearables is evolving at a rapid rate. CEA expects revenue to surpass $1 billion in 2014, a 37 percent increase over 2013.
However, here are four innovations that are shaping a growing industry.
Wearables dominated 2014’s CES, with every major OEM champing at the bit to grab a slice of an expanding pie. Although many first generation attempts were met with criticism, consideration for design and features is being carefully applied to new technologies, evolving at a rapid rate.
1. Waterproof Gadgets
More companies are introducing waterproof electronics to allow users the ability to bring their devices in almost any environment. For instance, Utah-based Underwater Audio uses a combination of sealants, plastics, and proprietary sealing processes for Apple products.
The result? You can listen to Beethoven or Drake even while swimming.
2. Programmable Devices
Duncan Walsh, the founder of U.K.-based FX-Sport, believes that wearable devices need to go beyond waterproof features. His VR2 mp3 player uses a silicone cover for waterproofing, but also has programmable software such as text-to-voice that allow for personalized workouts, messages, and mobile coaching while athletes are in the midst of their training.
The VR2 lets users download personalized workouts from the company’s online Workout Store.
This feature could set a trend in wearable tech. In 2013, three quarters of online U.S. consumers (75 percent) said they own a fitness technology product, up from 61 percent in 2012, according to CEA. Pedometers are the most popular fitness device owned by consumers (37 percent), followed by fitness video games (26 percent) and portable blood pressure monitors (21 percent).
3. Miniaturization of Technology
The miniaturization of electronics means devices can be integrated into clothing and daily accessories such as watches (Samsung Galaxy Gear) and eyeglasses (Google Glass).
Nine percent of online U.S. adults plan to buy a smart watch in 2014, according to CEA. Marketers and advertisers will need to adjust their content to fit in this smaller universe.
Another question is this: What operating system will these miniature gadgets run on? Currently, nearly 80 percent of smartphones run on Android. Will Google dominate wearable tech through Android?
4. Smart Sensors
A smartphone is a collection of dozens of sensors, and wearable tech is enabling us to carry personalized information (from a user’s heart rate to exact location) wherever we go.
Wearable tech could evolve from portable gadgets to smart garments and augmented reality goggles. It seems the marketplace should brace itself for the next major wave of consumer electronics.