What’s Next with Wearable Computing?

Companies are now investing in wearable computing devices. But what’s next?


Image credit: Demetrius Mandzych

aNewDomain.net — What’s next? That’s usually a common question among my friends whenever we discuss emerging technology.

Admittedly, we’re more or less content with our smartphones and tablets. But everybody knows that technology rarely stays the same for very long. Tablets that many of us enjoy on a daily basis for recreation and, in what is in an upward trend, productivity and work (this article is being written on my tablet, for instance) were the latest entry into the tech fray. Tablets have been around in their modern form for a few years, and we’ve seen their power and capabilities increase. The speed at which they have changed thrusts the unknown upon us and forces us to think about how quickly something from the murky future can be here tomorrow to change our everyday lives.

Some of us carry tablets. Almost all of us carry a mobile phone. And we all wear clothing. The next logical step is to introduce a wearable computing device that augments our current devices and makes it even more convenient to receive notifications, voice calls, or written communication. This has been the end result for a few companies such as Samsung with its Galaxy Gear watch and Pebble with its wearable offerings. Each device was introduced to the market, and it accomplished what it was designed to do. But are these gadgets fulfilling their potential? To expect the customer to wear a device for the majority of the day, is the proposition attractive? Personally, I think there is a missing X-factor concept or feature that has been hard to nail down and define but one thing is certain — the current crop of wearables haven’t been setting the world on fire.

Here’s an idea that is familiar to all of us but is almost marginalized with wearables.

Social networks — we all use them to an extent that even our address book could be considered a social network on a micro level. And that is where I see promise: a device intended for an intimate list of friends/family/clients that can send and receive “heartbeat” updates designed for intimate and critical situations. A device that we won’t want to be without because of how closely linked we are with those people. Let me explain via a few scenarios and use cases. Let’s take a look.

Childbirth: a woman goes into labor and her husband who is away from her is frantically trying to hail a cab in the busiest district in the city. Thankfully, he is wearing one of these new-fangled devices and so is his wife. Once the husband gets into the taxicab, he can coach his wife to breathe via voice and video — never a moment out of touch, bridging the gap until he can arrive. The people in their micro network can be notified immediately, and they can interact within that private network which is highly personal, peer-to-peer, and by design walled from the public.

Natural disasters are another scenario where people can check in with family and critical contacts and report to emergency agency workers on the current situation or with location data. When every second matters there’s no time to spare.

Concerts and social events: here instant notification of backstage access or a great photo-op while planning where to eat afterward would be ideal.

Smart Watch

One of the early enthusiast projects of changing an iPod Nano into a watch. Image credit: Demetrius Mandzych

These are all tasks that can be handled via a smartphone. Including and emphasizing the human component is what would seal the deal. By limiting the micro network to encompass only your elite contacts for a given situation opens alternate forums of communication that otherwise might be too cumbersome or complicated for average users to accomplish with a specialized app.

A new generation of wearables can help lower barriers for certain tasks and improve communications by making them always available, and in principle, effortless to use. By winning the hearts of the people and illustrating human value and not just existing as a remote display to your phone’s notification system will be a huge differentiator. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Based on the Jersey Shore, Demetrius Mandzych is passionate about tech and has worked in game development, programming, graphic design, 3D modeling and photography. Read all Demetrius’ consumer tech articles here on aNewDomain.net. Follow Demetrius on Twitter at @Redestium. On Google+ he’s +Demetrius Mandzych.