Design comes first in wearable revolution

Posted on March 31, 2014



This year will be a watershed for wearables. We have been riffing about personal communication devices for decades in science fiction lit from writers such as Philip K Dick and with the launch of the smart watch, reality has finally caught up to imagination. Now we have the Rufus Cuff. Prepare to beam up. Seriously though, we will soon enter an era when intelligent sensors and nanotechnology enable communications to melt into the background, ever-present and available. The cuff may not be the most beautiful or well crafted pieces of smart technology, but it will have its fans out there.

A well-balanced piece from Saverio Romero at Connect Innovate enlarges on the theme of design and smart clothing. He notes: “The artistic contribution of fashion designers and creative industries in general will move devices like smart glasses, smart watches and smart clothes from objects for technology lovers to objects of desire for the masses.” Romero talks about the marriage of the internet of things with wearables as networks become all pervasive, but stresses that technology has to look good while doing its thing.

No more anonymity
One of the big impacts of having communications and, especially, cameras everywhere is a serious loss of privacy in public places. Are we prepared to lose anonymity in the crowd for GPS-located, face-recognition processed identity? Will we see punters carrying sheaths of consent forms with them everywhere they go or perhaps a hat with a CCTV camera sign? It’s a consideration. For some, the idea of being ‘on’ all the time is the norm. Marek Pawlowski, founder of MEX, talks about “all-consuming digital”.

“Let me paint a picture: the family living room on a weekday evening,” he says. “How many separate devices are connected to the web, from the wall-mounted TV streaming Netflix and the iPad in one user’s lap to the phone browsing Pinterest and the smartwatch flicking through the latest alerts? Each of these represents a channel for consumption, just a few of the many which now clamour for our attention.”

Watch out
The future will be noisy. Some will wean themselves off digital devices and amped up reality early, others will always search for the next big (probably won’t be big) thing. An interesting post on the MEX website dismisses the idea of the smart watch, saying that it is quite clearly a case of the voice of engineering (can we?) shouting louder than the voice of customer experience (should we?).

smart watches

VentureBeat asked Marcus Weller, inventor of the Skully P1 smart motorcycle helmet, what his top 10 wearable design principles were. Among them were that a device should enhance human capabilities and capitalise on existing behaviour. You can read that article at VentureBeat. But there is one cast iron rule that all wearables must pass before they become accepted. According to Pebble CEO, Eric Migicovsky, it’s simple: “The reason you should put a wearable on your body is because it’s useful, and solves a problem.”