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Wearables are making gains, but they still face major barriers to adoption

Wearables are making gains, but they still face major barriers to adoption | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

With the launch of the Apple Watch, and a slew of smartwatches and fitness bands on the market from competing companies, the devices seem to be taking off among consumers. 

But there are still several barriers that could inhibit this new device category from becoming a ubiquitous, mainstream computing platform.


In a recent report on the wearable computing market from BI Intelligence, we look at how the wearables market will perform in the long run. We forecast out shipments numbers and analyze proprietary results from our BI Intelligence consumer survey on smartwatch purchase intent. But we also discuss some of the barriers to adoption that persist. Here are some of the main inhibitors: 


  • The lack of a persuasive use caseSome consumers still don't see the point of these devices. In our proprietary survey data, 51% of those who don't want a smartwatch claimed it was because they did not see the point. Until consumers see a clear reason why smartwatches will improve their lives, the smartwatch category will remain sluggish.
  • The lack of a killer app. There aren't enough apps out there that are really compelling on the wrist-worn devices. Fragmentation is one of the biggest reasons for lack of a robust wearable app ecosystem. Several wearable devices launched in the past year, and almost all of them used different platforms, making it difficult for developers to pinpoint a platform to build on. Apple's WatchKit, which was released in November, should propel more wearable-focused app development. 
  • Limited functionalityBasic fitness bands are limited to primarily tracking health- and fitness-related data and spitting this aggregated data back out onto a smartphone or tablet, and the most obvious limitation to the smartwatch is the small screen size. These devices are clearly not made to handle content like games, video, photos, and even some social media — which are some of the most popular app categories on smartphones and tablets. 
  • StyleThus far, most smartwatches have looked somewhat clunky and unsophisticated, while smart eyewear like Google Glass is simply too conspicuous and obtrusive on the face.  Apple Watch will cater to the high-end fashion crowd by offering premium versions of the device equipped with fashionable bands and even gold-plated watch faces.
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Even the Guy Who Designed the iPod Might Not Be Able to Save Google Glass

Even the Guy Who Designed the iPod Might Not Be Able to Save Google Glass | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Google Glass hasn’t changed the world. Not even close. Briefly hailed as the wearable heir to the smartphone, Glass has mainly become an object of derision, confusion, and indifference. Google never really succeeded in making a convincing case for why we’d all want to wear our phones on our faces.

The iPod, on the other hand, was a device that radically changed the trajectory of personal tech. The conceptual parent of the iPhone, the iPod upended the recording industry, revitalized Apple, and ushered in the online, on-demand era of music, movies, books, and TV. And the guy who designed the iPod? He now works for Google.

Tony Fadell joined the company when Google paid more than $3 billion for Nest, the smart-home startup he co-founded. At the time of the acquisition almost exactly one year ago, we made much of how Nest’s connected thermostats and smoke alarms would give Google entree to the oceans of data these smart devices will generate as they become commonplace in people’s homes. But buying Nest also brought Google something else: a guy with a proven record of designing hardware that is radically new but also widely embraced by consumers.

In that light, Google’s decision today to give Fadell oversight of Google Glass makes a lot of sense. If any gadget needs a guiding hand to transform it from geek fetish to viable product, it’s Glass. But the challenge is steep, even for Fadell. The problem is that Glass’ failure doesn’t ultimately stem from people perceiving it as uncool; it’s that Glass isn’t perceived as all that useful. Google had hoped Glass’ early users would help find the functions for its form; now Fadell will have to push reset on that unsuccessful effort. Instead of asking users what Glass is for, Fadell must find a way to tell them.

No Clear Advantage

From the time of its first limited release in 2013, critics have railed against Glass as a privacy invader and a anti-social intrusion on everyday face-to-face contact. But the outrage drew attention away from the more mundane question of what the real point was of having access to the basic functions of your smartphone through a tiny display permanently hovering just above your eye. To make sense as a general purpose consumer device, a gadget needs to have a clear advantage over those that preceded it. Glass’ advantage compared to pulling out your phone was never clear, and Google never effectively articulated it. Instead, Google seemed to hope that by offering Glass to a select number of early adopters and techies through its Glass Explorer program, which is now ending, the device’s first users would do the work of figuring out what it was for.

That didn’t happen, at least not in a way that made those advantages obvious to the general public. Over the past two years, we’ve learned that consumers are not clamoring for heads-up displays; what they really want are the same old smartphones, except with ginormous screens. As innovative as Glass may seem in its newness, newness alone does not entail innovation if the equation does not also include usefulness.

Glass came into the world as a gadget looking for a reason to be, and that reason hasn’t been found.

A caveat: connected headsets like Glass are here to stay in specific, mostly work-related contexts. Certain specialized occupations such as surgeon, construction worker, or jet-engine mechanic will benefit greatly from access to a constant stream of information that the person on the receiving end can consume while keeping both hands free. The future of wearable devices isn’t about a single device that does everything. It’s about lots of different devices that each do one thing really well.

And in a future like that, what place does Glass really have? That’s what Tony Fadell will have to figure out. Perhaps resetting Glass means re-presenting it to consumers as a device for work. And since consumers rather than IT departments are now driving the tech that gets used in the workplace, a reimagining of Glass for enterprise could still offer a path to mass adoption.

To be sure, Google is still signaling mainstream ambitions for its beleaguered eyewear. Along with putting the device in Fadell’s hands, Google is also pushing Glass out of the experimental nest of its Google X division (Glass is “graduating,” Google says). But if Glass is really out of its infancy, as Google asserts, it’s hardly all grown up. Giving the device to Fadell is a gamble that, with his user-experience chops, he will be able to define, implement, and convey a sense of purpose through which potential consumers will finally “get” Glass. But that still leaves the question: Who is that potential consumer?

Clarity of Vision

In a recent podcast post-mortem on the Consumer Electronics Show, Andreessen Horowitz partner Benedict Evans described the Internet of Things as a kind of inversion of the typical path for new tech. Instead of a great need that innovators strive to develop new tech in order to meet, the Internet of Things consists of a wealth of devices waiting for consumers to figure out what they’re good for. Evans said that, in that context, the real value of Nest to both consumers and Google isn’t so much in its thermostat or its smoke detector as gadgets unto themselves. Instead, the value of Nest is in the company’s jumpstart on creating a user-friendly system that conveys not just the usefulness of each device individually, but that through its design communicates how that usefulness evolves as more devices connect to the system.

“The point of of Nest isn’t the thermostat,” Evans said. “It’s the route to market and the communication.”

To succeed, Fadell needs to imbue Glass with a similar clarity of vision. And if anyone seems capable of making the case for Glass, it’s the guy who managed to persuade consumers that devices as boring as the thermostat and the smoke detector could be transformed into much more useful appliances. Unlike Glass, however, the thermostat and smoke detector both have obvious, well-defined purposes that tech augments by connecting them to each other and the internet.

Glass came into the world as a gadget looking for a reason to be, and that reason hasn’t been found. Someone with Fadell’s gift might be able to find it. But he’ll have to look pretty hard. Relaunching Glass as primarily a tool for work seems like the most fruitful path to take, to find highly specific niches where Glass makes sense. But the likelihood that even Fadell can convince the world of the need for a face-mounted smartphone is slim. It’s not like Google to think small. But Fadell will have to narrow Glass’ view if he wants it to survive.


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Maciej Karpiński's curator insight, January 17, 2015 1:57 PM

Obawy przed tym, że designer iPoda nie podoła produktowi Glass.

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Where Google went wrong with Glass

Where Google went wrong with Glass | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Google botched its wearable, Google Glass, and now the director of GoogleX labs is openly talking about it.

Astro Teller, Google’s director of its research arm, GoogleX, was speaking to an audience at the South by Southwest conference in Austin on Tuesday when he said the company made mistakes with Glass.

Google, according to Teller, needs to work out its wearable’s battery and privacy issues, and address miscommunications about the state of the project.

Google Glass, even when it was being sold to early testers for $1,500, was never close to being ready for official sale. It’s a prototype and still solidly in the experimental phase.

The company, however, did not make that clear, especially when its executives and its PR people were repeatedly putting timeframes on an official Glass release.

Looking back at the Glass Explorer program, Teller said Google did one good thing it launched the project but it also did one thing wrong.

“The bad decision was that we allowed and sometimes even encouraged too much attention for the program,” he said. “Instead of people seeing the Explorer devices as learning devices, Glass began to be talked about as if it were a fully baked consumer product. The device was being judged and evaluated in a very different context than we intended.”

That tactic frustrated a lot of early adopters.

“While we were hoping to learn more about how to make it better, people just wanted the product to be better straight away , and that led to some understandably disappointed Explorers,” Teller said.

While thousands of people bought Glass to become early adopters, or Explorers , the application ecosystem for the product didn’t grow and the project became the target of jokes and waning interest.

“It sounded reasonable to them to have an alpha testing program where, rather than paying the folks testing the product and keeping it secret, they got the testers to pay for the privilege in a kind of a Tom Sawyer scheme, and made the test public,” said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group. “Now the product has to dig itself out of a hole that wouldn’t have existed had they done the testing using traditional methods.”

A public experiment

Teller said the Explorer program, which ended in January, was invaluable.

“I can say that having experimented out in the open was painful at points, but it was still the right thing to do,” he said. “We never would have learned all that we’ve learned without the Explorer program, and we needed that to inform the future of Glass and wearables in general.”

According to Teller, Google learned that it has to work out problems with the wearable’s battery and with the privacy issues surrounding computerized eyeglasses that can take photos and short videos.

After the company stopped selling the prototypes early this year, speculation swirled that Google was giving up on the project altogether. Google said that’s not the case, and that Glass was pulled out of the spotlight to be retooled. The device also was moved from under the research umbrella of GoogleX and placed with its own team, much like the teams working on search and Android.

“Google did screw up,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. “The way they talked about it led people to believe it was a finished off, polished product, which it’s not. So by hyping it so much, they set expectations they could not meet.”

Google had the hype ramped up way before it was time, said Jeff Kagan, an independent industry analyst.

“Google had the sizzle, they just didn’t have the steak,” Kagan said. “This is a perfect example of a company believing their own PR and not paying any attention to the realities that make something hot... This is a very painful and embarrassing lesson for Google to learn. It’s amazing that they haven’t learned it yet.”

Kagan said he can’t see Glass becoming a product anytime soon, but Kerravala said the device still has a good shot.

“Oh, sure they can recover,” Kerravala said. “They’ll have to take a step back but... there’s an expression that if you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.”



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Richard Platt's curator insight, March 21, 2015 4:29 PM
Astro Teller, Google’s director of its research arm, GoogleX, said the company made mistakes with Glass. They needed to work out its wearable’s battery and privacy issues, and address miscommunications about the state of the project.. Even when it was being sold to early testers for $1,500, was never close to being ready for official sale. It’s a prototype and still solidly in the experimental phase. Even though its executives and its PR people were repeatedly putting timeframes on an official Glass release.Teller said Google did one good thing it launched the project but it also did one thing wrong. - “The bad decision was that we allowed and sometimes even encouraged too much attention for the program,” he said. “Instead of people seeing the Explorer devices as learning devices, Glass began to be talked about as if it were a fully baked consumer product. The device was being judged and evaluated in a very different context than we intended.” - That tactic frustrated a lot of early adopters
Tom Bryon's curator insight, March 25, 2015 3:35 AM

"Google had the sizzle, they just didn't have the steak".

Technology will surely experience some form of metamorphosis, Google is pushing another form of wearable technology, possibly we could see this as the mainstream form of communication. It hasn't picked up the momentum it needs yet, but as its usability increases and new needs arise, that may change.

"The device still has a good shot. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.”

QindredCam's curator insight, April 1, 2015 3:25 PM

Privacy and battery life; these are two of the key challenges for wearable recording devices.

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This Is the Year Wearables Will Stop Being So Ugly | WIRED

This Is the Year Wearables Will Stop Being So Ugly | WIRED | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Fitness trackers are getting a whole lot more stylish.

The latest batch of wearables lets you have your fitness tracking and your fashion, too. They’re ditching neutral monochrome and sporty, almost utilitarian, styling for a rainbow of colors, faux gems, and other flair that make them suitable for any time of day, and any occasion. The change reflects the maturation of the market and the growing sophistication of consumer tastes.

“When the first activity trackers started coming out, that sporty look was what people wanted. Now we’re moving away from that,” Garmin media relations associate Amy Noury said. The company just launched its first smartwatch, the $250 Vivoactive. It’s a handsome, sleek gadget that resembles the Pebble smartwatch and builds on its general purpose activity trackers, the Vivofit and Vivosmart. It’s GPS enabled and can track activities like cycling, running, swimming, or golf. Garmin also updated its Vivofit fitness tracker with additional features and a host of bright silicon strap colors and styles, including ones patterned with designs by Jonathan Adler.

We started seeing more attractive fitness trackers from the likes of Withings last year, but the trend has firmly established itself here at CES. Gone are the somewhat flimsy, totally utilitarian bands that go around your wrist or dongles that clip to your pocket. The newest trackers are sleek, almost sexy, drawing design cues from high-end jewelry and Swiss watches. Many of these changes are designed to make wearables more appealing to women, whose tastes and needs were largely ignored in the first wave of wearables. That’s changing as manufacturers realize they are missing out on a huge potential market. In response, they’re designing health, fitness, and safety trackers that look more like jewelry than gadgetry. Cuff was among the first to do so with a wearable that serves as a personal safety monitor and notification alert yet looks like something you’d wear to dinner.

“People were able to relate to [Cuff] not as pieces of technology but rather as things they wanted to wear, with added benefit,” says company CEO Deepa Sood.

Others have followed that lead, working alongside designers and jewelry makers to create wearables that are as attractive as they are useful. Take Misfit, for example. Swarovski, the Austrian producer of fine crystal and cut glass, worked with Misfit to develop the Swarovski Shine collection, a pair of bejeweled activity trackers that can be worn on an array of crystal-covered bracelets, bands, and necklaces. The two companies got together during a wearable tech event in New York in 2013, and Swarovski thought Shine’s clean, modular design made it a great opportunity to create a new high-end accessory that won’t be obsolete within months.

“[It] has a set of features people will find interesting now, as well as four years from now,” says Tim Golnik, Misfit’s vice president of product and design. “And it’s not hinged on a large display that needs a certain number of colors or pixel density.”

You can get Shine in silver or violet—the latter of which runs entirely on solar power. Joan Ng, a Swarovski v.p., says each of the crystal’s facets direct light onto a tiny embedded photovoltaic cell. Of course, adding all that flair and tech boosts the price; the original Shine costs $99, but if you want the fancier model (and its accessories) you’ll pay as much as $250.

Withings went the other way, introducing the fun, colorful Activité Pop smartwatch. It costs $150, compared to $400 for the handsome Activité that resembles a Swiss watch. Although the Pop offers some of the same features as the more upscale Activité, it uses less expensive (and less durable) materials. The company went for fun, eye-catching colors—including teal, orange, and blue—that would encourage people to wear the watch every day. The Pop still has the masculine design common to high-end watches—a large dial with a wide strap—but is aimed at both men and women.

“The different color and material options allow men and women to pick the watch that is the best fit for them,” Withings CEO Cedric Hutchings said. The Pop has a Bluetooth radio and uses the Withings Health Mate app to connect to your iPhone and track all your activities—including swimming.

This new era in wearables is exciting. For the first time, gadget makers aren’t thinking about more than function. They’re thinking about form, and trends, and what consumers want. If people are going to embrace wearables as something they use every day, they need to fit consumers’ needs in terms of function and design, as well as their personality. Now, we’ll finally have the option to choose the wearable that’s exactly what we’re looking for.


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Jeff Domansky's curator insight, March 4, 2016 8:34 PM

Let's hope that more design and creativity come into wearables this year!