Move beyond smartphones and tablets. Smartwatches and smartbands are fast becoming the accessory to have. Wear the geek on your sleeves and you will realise that fashion is just as important as function. It's not a surprise, then, that wearable technology is driving innovation. From technology giants, such as Samsung and Apple, to start-ups, everyone is betting big on wear gadgets. The fancy prototypes that looked like a dream till recently, have not only become a reality, but have evolved from being just stand-alone gadgets with limited functionality to extensions to our tech-driven world.
According to a report from Canalys, over 1.6 million wearable bands were shipped globally during the second half of 2013. The forecast for 2014 was pegged at over 17million. In 2015, the number is expected to exceed 43.2 million units.
The rush for wearable tech is not without reason. The growing app ecosystem around wearables, their compatibility with multiple gadgets and accessories, and, above all, the pricing, are contributing towards making them a must for the aspirational Indian's tech wardrobe.
Now you have to just strap your wearable to your wrist to see the notifications, emails, messages, or Facebook and Twitter mentions. In fact, wearable gadgets are capable of doing a lot more than you can imagine - from giving directions to reach your destination and answering calls, you can also monitor your heartbeat, log your daily footsteps and track your sleeping pattern.Smartwatches and smartbands come with special apps that either work on iOS or Android, and some are even compatible with both operating systems. To explore the device further, installing the app is a must.
Motorola's Moto 360, for instance, is an aesthetically-designed smartwatch that pairs with almost any Android smartphone using the Moto Connect App. Wearing one is fun. My tech-savvy friends are awed by this smartwatch, while the technically-challenged loved its design. And, it is not an exception. There are a host of smartwatches available from the stables of Samsung, Sony, Pebble and LG, among others, that are equally appealing.
Fitness bands, however, are more affordable compared to smartwatches. At present smartbands cost Rs 2,500 onwards. The Xiaomi bracelet might be available in India for Rs 1,500. Lesser known brands of smartwatches are available for Rs 5,000 to Rs 12,000, while Motorola's Moto 360 is priced at Rs 18,499.
While Sony's Smart Band SWR10 comes with a compatible app that tracks daily activities, Indian start-up Goqii differentiates its products from other fitness bands by offering a fitness coach to go with. It tracks activity and sleep and keeps you motivated to eat healthy and be active. Samsung, too, has a Gear Fit band that looks elegant, just like a smartwatch. Other than fitness and notification, there are bands that 'think' about your safety. The spotNSave Wristband, for instance, lets you send an SOS to your dear ones if you are in trouble.
Pushing innovation for smartwatches further, Google has announced Android Wear, an operating system for smartwatches. It pairs with Android phones and by saying 'Ok Google' (using a voice-recognition software), the watch starts talking to you. Apple, which redefined smartphones, too, has ventured into this segment with Apple Watch. The device incorporates fitness-tracking and health-oriented features, and claims to be a lifestyle product. "By creating a new user interface tailored to its tiny display, Apple has produced a smartwatch that consumers will want to wear. The sleek software, variety of designs and reasonable price make for a compelling product," says Canalys analyst Daniel Matte.
While wristbands and smartwatches dominate the wearable tech industry today, technology is also being etched into shoes, rings, jewellery, clothes and eye gears. For example, Lechal GPS Shoes is a pair of Bluetooth-connected shoes that use haptic feedback technology to notify users about the direction they must take. Fin Ring, on the other hand, is an innovative gesture-based ring control for devices. Blomor iPod Sweartshirt is yet another innovation that come with integrated speakers and a microphone attached to the hood that allows you to listen to your favourite music and making calls. It even has a broad front pocket with a multifunction button and a universal jack that plugs into any earphone-compatible device.
Though Google has stopped selling its Google Glass, which has been the epitome of wearable tech, Google Glass 2 is already in the works. While Sony is experimenting with its SmartEyeglass Attach, Microsoft has revealed its plans on a head-mounted gear with transparent glasses, HoloLens. Dash is yet another product that is creating interest among consumers. It is a wireless headphone with a built in MP3 player, microphone, Bluetooth headset, fitness tracker and heart rate monitor from Kickstarter. Intel's Curie, a low-powered module around which wearbles gadgets can be designed, is another innovation grabbing eyeballs. Japanese eyewear company Jins has showcased a unique eyeglass with three-point electrodes looking into the eye, collecting data and transmitting it to the wearer's smartphone.
"There are already some interesting developments at the prototype stage that could pave the way for consumer wearables to blend seamlessly into their surroundings. Smart contact lenses are being developed. Then, there is smart jewellery. There are a dozen crowd-funded projects competing right now in this area, with sensors built into jewellery for communication and emergency alarms. Obtrusive wearables, such as smart glasses, are already in the market and are likely to develop new designs that disguise their technological components completely," says Annette Zimmermann, Research Director at Gartner.
There's plenty happening in the wearable space and you might as well upgrade your tech wardrobe to announce your arrival as both fashionable and mainstream.