Michael Finneran
Michael F. Finneran, is President of dBrn Associates, Inc., a full service advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobility; services...
Read Full Bio >>

Michael Finneran | July 25, 2013 |


What's What in Wearable Tech

What's What in Wearable Tech From basic Bluetooth headsets to Google Glass and prosthetics for the vision-impaired, this is a hot area of technology

From basic Bluetooth headsets to Google Glass and prosthetics for the vision-impaired, this is a hot area of technology

This week I had the chance to attend the Wearable Tech Expo at NYU's Kimmel Center in New York, and came away with a much deeper appreciation of what's potentially on the horizon in terms of next-gen wireless peripherals and the challenges involved in getting there. Clearly everyone is banking on delivering the "next big thing" (NBT), but they are still trying to determine what that NBT might be.

For 2012, ABI Research valued the smartphone accessories market at $20 billion, with most of that going to things like Bluetooth headsets, chargers and cases. The number being bandied around at the conference for the "wearables" portion of that market was around $750 million but expected to grow to $50 billion by 2016.

Frankly I was amazed by the variety of wearables being built or considered, and they fell into a number of broad categories:

* Basic Bluetooth headsets are currently the biggest element and close to a billion-dollar market
* Smartwatches like the Pebble and the rumored iWatch
* Activity monitors like Nike's Fuelband, Jawbone's UP, Fibit, Basis, and the list goes on
* Viewers like Google Glass or Vuzix's M100
* Telemedicine devices (e.g. heart rate monitors, blood pressure monitors, glucose meters, pill reminders, etc.)
* Wearables like the Under Armour E39 shirt that can measure heart rate, respiration, skin temperature and acceleration, or the Adidas miCoach and miCoach Elite system.
* Implantables like the Argus Retinal II Prosthesis from Second Sight

Right off the bat, all of these devices face a major challenge with regard to the size and required weight, which makes batteries a problem and limits the range of radio options available. Most wearables seem to depend on Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), but some are using Wi-Fi or developing their own proprietary interfaces. Beyond that, we find unique challenges in each of the various segments.

For the moment, everyone seems to agree that the smartwatch has the best chance for success, particularly when you consider that the mechanical wristwatch was probably the first "wearable technology." In the meantime, my son rarely wears the watch we bought him and instead gets the time off his smartphone. Having a peripheral display on my wrist sounds a lot more convenient than yanking out my smartphone every time it buzzes, and despite some rough edges, the Pebble smartwatch has generally gotten good reviews.

I think there will be a much more limited market for activity monitors that track how much you run, walk, exercise, and even sleep throughout the day; some allow you to input what you consume and let you set goals and the like. The trouble is that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 80% of adults don't get their recommended exercise--I'm not so sure they want to be reminded of that. However, given the fit, attractive models these companies use in their ads, these things could become a fashion statement. And at least people will think you exercise.

Adidas showed off the most high-end monitoring system in its miCoach Elite. Qaizar Hassonjee, Adidas VP of Innovation for Wearable Sports Electronics, described it as a full training monitoring system that is first being tried by professional soccer teams. The system is based on shirts with built-in sensors and a small rechargeable GPS-enabled transmitter that fits in a pocket between the player's shoulders. While the player goes through his workout, the package can measure speed, distance, position, heart rate, and acceleration/deceleration; all of that information is sent to a battery-powered base station on the sidelines. With an iPad, coaches can view the raw data, composite measures called "Cardio" and "Power" generated by a special algorithm Adidas developed. Nice gadget, but a full system runs about $100,000 to $150,000, and Adidas is looking to expand into other sports.

I'm still undecided about the prospects for Google Glass, though I did get to try a pair if only for a few moments. The unique, futuristic look of the product does make a statement, but I'm not sure I'd want this thing stuck on my face all day. And there's the question of whether forcing a user to look up to see the screen is a good design choice. In any event, the SNL skit on it that ran during a Weekend Update segment will have you rolling on the floor.

Beyond a doubt, the most mind-blowing device I saw was the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis from Second Sight (shown at right). This is an implantable medical device that actually gives limited sight to people who are blind--no, I'm not kidding. According to Jim Little, Second Sight's VP of Implant R&D, it doesn't address all causes of blindness, but it can help people afflicted with macular degeneration (which affects about 2 million Americans) and retinitis pigmentosa (about 100,000 Americans). A device is implanted in the eye and connected to the optic nerve; there are about a dozen medical centers certified to do this surgery. The user then wears a pair of glasses with a camera that wirelessly transmits data to the implanted device that electrically stimulates the optic nerve.

The result is not full "sight", but it will allow people who were totally blind to see light, shapes, and movement. Mr. Little showed a series of videos of patients, all of whom were still visually impaired, but they were able to see things moving around them, recognize when they came to a curb, and things like that. There was even a grandma who could shoot baskets!

As I mentioned, the question everyone was most interested in was, what's going to be the "next big thing"? Keynoter Jennifer Darmour of wearable design firm Electricfoxy identified three key characteristics to watch for: beauty, meaning, and "periphery", or the ability to "use the body as interface." There's a big gap between articulating those characteristics and actually developing a product that incorporates them and grabs the imagination of a mass audience. I don't know what that product is going to be, but I'm pretty sure we're going to see it!

Follow Michael Finneran on Twitter and Google+!
Michael Finneran on Google+


March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

February 7, 2018

Enterprises are starting to grasp the critical importance of security and compliance in their team collaboration deployments. And once the risks are mitigated, your enterprise can integrate these n

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.