As I was packing my clothes, shoes, watches, toiletries, medicines, an assortment of chargers for my personal phone/work phone, tablet, camera, etc. for a trip I undertook recently, I realized how arduous packing can become at times. It doesn't end with carrying just any set of clothes or shoes - you need to pack separate pairs of formal and semi-formal clothes and shoes, not to forget your ties. If a theme party or outdoor trip is also a part of your trip schedule, then there is another, separate set of required items to carry. If you are an avid runner - in come your running shoes too, as a part of the already loaded baggage. Luckily, I don't wear my spectacles regularly; else I would have had to carry it along with my sunglasses...the list becomes endless!
Many of you reading the blog must be wondering by now as to what this blog is all about - is it about fashion? If so, why is it published here on FinSpeak? Let me assure you, the blog is definitely not about fashion in its truest sense, but, yes, it is about another fast upcoming trend - one that has all the hallmarks of becoming a fashion statement.
That brings me to my title, which, as almost everyone knows, is inspired by the quote from the Superman movies. Yes, I am talking about wearable gadgets, the newest smart fashion trend with a utility value. First up, what are wearable gadgets? In layman terms, wearable gadgets are electronic devices that can be worn by the user. These wearable gadgets are not just any other another electronic device to be carried around - they are mobile, Internet-connected computers, and smart in the form of regular attire we wear, like spectacles, shirts, shoes, bracelets, wrist bands, etc. Broadly, the wearable gadgets can be in the form of a fitness device (like Jawbone UP, Nike FuelBand, Fitbit One), smart watch (Samsung Galaxy Gear, Pebble, Sony SmartWatch 2), smart glasses (Google Glass) and even smart clothes. There is plenty to choice, and in various forms, shapes and sizes.
Wearable gadgets are witnessing significant traction as fitness devices (primarily in the form of bracelets or wristbands). These gadgets keep tabs on the user's fitness (through sensors) by tracking, collating and analyzing movements, sleep patterns, heartbeat, etc., and passing on the feedback to the user about their stress levels, lifestyle choice (active or passive), etc. Doesn't this sound interesting? I have a personal physician or physiotherapist at hand (literally on my hand!).
Now, if you fancy watches instead of bracelets, there are smart watches to choose from as well. Today's smart watch is a smartphone accessory - it can make calls, send emails, surf the Internet, pick notifications, provide pedometers, and other productivity apps. The smart watch journey has just begun, and all eyes are literally on the much awaited iWatch (the rumored smart watch from Apple). Now, having discussed bracelets and watches, the next accessory to look at will be glasses. For now, in "wearable lingo", when someone says smart glasses (head-mounted camera and display), it's synonymous with Google Glass. This despite the fact that there are other smart glasses available from Vuzix (Smart Glasses - M100), Vergence Labs (Epiphany Eyewear), etc. Currently, Google Glass is still in limited beta mode and shared with a select few. In fact, Google Glass itself was transformed into an instant celebrity when a cast member of the Big Bang Theory wore it to the Emmys this year.
The tech and analyst community is awash with multiple use cases for Google Glass in mobile banking, claims documentation, telemedicine, training and demos and many more, the list is endless. All these are in addition to basic functions like browsing websites, reading mails, texting, GPS navigation, shooting photos and videos, etc. It's only a matter of time before an array of smart glasses flood the market, giving consumers like me a lot to choose from. These wearables are not just any fashion item to choose from; they come with a lot of utility value. However, just like any new trend, wearables come with concerns too - the biggest one being privacy. I am sure this is something manufacturers will take into account as this market matures and even users of wearables will understand the utility value better. To determine if such privacy concerns will stifle the adoption of wearables, take the example of Facebook. For all the privacy concerns raised by critics, the social network boasts 1.15 billion active users per month (as of June 2013).
Having said all this, I am truly ready to take a look at wearables. The next time I travel, it might increase the time I take to pack my belongings but given their utility value, that's hardly a concern. The real question is, are you ready?