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9 Myths About Wearable Computers

Wearable devices represent a major opportunity for the technology industry, but the makers of these devices still have some work to do.

Myth No. 6: First to market with a wearable product is a can't-miss winning formula
Getting to market first matters a lot among web companies but is less of an issue for wearable devices. Early entries into the market have been bulky, underwhelming in terms of functions, and impractical. When asked whether he was referring specifically to Google Glass, Stuermer insisted he's not speaking about any product in particular. He argued that manufacturers need to consult with fashion and design houses to ensure that their forays into the market don't stumble.

Myth No. 7: Power consumption and batteries will not be big issues with wearable devices
Perhaps a decade ago, chipmakers began to worry more about performance per watt than operations per second. Power efficiency became more important than raw horsepower. The mobile revolution only reinforced that approach, and it's an ongoing challenge. We're asking more of our mobile devices in terms of running sensors and background applications. All that requires power. And battery chemistry has not improved at the same rate as semiconductor density, so the problem keeps getting worse. Having to remove a smartwatch and charge it daily will be a significant deterrent to adoption. "Battery size and miniaturization is still a bit of an obstacle," as well as an opportunity for chipmakers.

Google Glass. (Source: Flickr user Giuseppe Costantino.)
Google Glass. (Source: Flickr user Giuseppe Costantino.)

Myth No. 8: Wearable devices are secure
People wrongly assume that, because wearable devices are on their person, the devices are secure. Security will be a huge issue for wearable devices. There will be new laws to deal with surveillance, location tracking, advertising, security, and privacy. Device makers need to lay the groundwork for a robust security framework in advance.

To Accenture's list, it's worth adding one more.

Myth No. 9: Alternate interfaces will be easy
Google and Apple have made convincing cases for a future where we command computers with our voices. The model often invoked is Star Trek, in which characters addressed the ship's computer by voice and were immediately understood. If only it were that easy. Apple Siri and Google Voice Search try to help their users by suggesting spoken queries, because people don't know what to ask or how to phrase their queries to ensure they'll be understood. At some point, humans and computers will be able to communicate naturally and reliably, but it will take time before we're comfortable chatting with machines.

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Li Tan
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
11/19/2013 | 11:49:32 PM
Re: Different markets
Tom, this is really a good point - the wearable device should not only be smart but also be of "plug and forget". We need to fully enjoy its powerful and cutting-edge functionalities/features instead of worrying about its battery life, etc. In other words, we cannot spend more time in baby-sitting those devices from time to time - the working day is already hectic and we cannot afford to have extra complexity.
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 5:02:27 PM
Re: Useability and functionality
Look fo rearly clues from the military on what's really functional in the way of wearable tech.  One byproduct may be new innovatios in powering all that tech.
Kristin Burnham
Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 3:44:57 PM
Re: Design
I agree with Alex. The technology can be cool and the use cases can be practical, but if it looks goofy, no one will buy it. Design is just as important as its applications.
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 1:05:29 PM
Re: Different markets
The utility of wearable tech will depend a lot on clever software that automates actions based on monitored data. Think Google Now, but better still. We really don't need to be baby-sitting more devices while on the move.
Alex Kane Rudansky
Alex Kane Rudansky,
User Rank: Author
11/19/2013 | 12:30:10 PM
I think design is a huge factor that will affect wearable tech growth. If a wearable is obtrusive (as some have argued Glass is), it's going to be a harder sell, even if the technology is there. Personally, I think the Jawbone Up has the design but lags in the technology, and Fitbit has the tech but lags in the design, which looks like an over-sized rubber watch. Once the tech and design come together seamlessly, I think we'll see a jump in growth.
User Rank: Apprentice
11/19/2013 | 11:31:07 AM
Re: Different markets
I think the Economist struck a pretty good note on the opportunities Vs the pitfalls of the Google Glass technologies in a piece in last week's print edition. there is clearly the privacy issues but set against that are some exciting possibilities and usages. I think the myth about being first to market is spot on as I think it will take manufacturers some time to get both the form and the function right for consumers.
Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/19/2013 | 10:49:10 AM
Different markets
This was really interesting and useful, thanks. I find myself scratching my head when the subject of wearable tech comes up because it's really not "new" and it's also not nearly specific enough to appeal to average consumers. That latter point is covered in Myth #1, and I do think that piece is a big hurdle here. If wearable technology remains too broadly defined and encompasses a whole range of products and services, how will consumers even know what they want, and what to go shopping for? The industry needs to alter its messaging to appeal to consumers' needs. While I'm not a Google Glass fan, I think that Google has managed to generate buzz around the product by marketing it for what it is, and not throwing it into the "wearable tech" bucket.
Stephanie W
Stephanie W,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/19/2013 | 10:08:55 AM
Useability and functionality
Great post! And to your point, if the device isn't useable and functional; that is serves a clear, needed purpose, no matter how "cool" or "neat" it is, it won't get off the ground.
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