Its hard to pinpoint exactly when the wearables revolution really started but one good data point might be the funding of the Pebble watch on Kickstarter in May of 2012:
In the annals of tech innovation I see this as a tipping point in the classic sense since many themes came together to make this possible. Since this is a tech blog I have to point out that the availability of the very low power STM32 processor with an ARM Cortex-M3 core was key but also an inexpensive Bluetooth low energy chip from Texas Instruments, a 3 axis MEMS accelerometer (also from STMicroelectronics) and lets not forget the e-Ink display. So the technology chips fell into place but the other major innovation was not technology but crowdfunding and the incredible rise of Kickstarter. This timely combination of tech and funding platform has allowed Pebble to ship its 1 millionth watch as of this week, an incredible achievement.
Here on the community we have a great video interview with Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky on his journey:
So if we extrapolate the success of Pebble to the broader wearables market are there other million sellers in the works? I don't know the sales levels of Fitbit but I have seen quotes thats its also in the millions so that device is in the million wearables club but what's next? I have a theory that the next big explosion in wearables will come from the healthcare sector since there are big trends in that market that will create a Pebble moment. In healthcare there is a primordial ooze of records, drug needs, monitoring and cost control that could spawn a whole new set of devices that keep us healthy and save money so thats my pick for the next breakthrough device from a business perspective. On the tech side the improving quality of sensors, non-invasive testing and better displays points to the next breakthrough. What do you think?
You were an early adopter which also impressed me, but I'm waiting to see how the use case shakes out for watches. The timepiece has moved in the past 10 years from your watch to your pocket (smart phone). The new "watch" for me would be more useful as a whole-body device (health measurements, activity, weather, location, time, altitude and so forth) rather than a smart phone on my wrist. If there's a device that emerges that does that well, I'll be its biggest fan. Getting emails, texting and receiving phones I'll reserve for the smart phone/tablet.
Brian, you are right on with your analysis and I think just like the Pebble watch example the technology is here (or in the case of the Cortex-A72 will be soon) and its really all about the right combination of display, connectivity, sensors and feedback loop. There is also the question of incentives to use the devices, not all of us are disciplined enough to listen to the Fitbit!
David, there is an issue we first have to confront, I think. And that's the natural human interface for wearables. Right now the data on the device (because of the interface/small screen, memory constraints), is relatively simple and limited. You need to shunt it to the app platform to do anything consistently useful with the data.
On the other hand, think about the Apple health app that came with IoS 8. There's a vast number of health data that that app offers but tracking them is limited by sensor technology and the interface and some market considerations (there's no iWatch just yet). This is a temporary situation. We'll fix this problem going forward (i think longer term about what innovations like the Cortex-A72 -- at the right price point -- could bring to these kinds of edge devices) but we've got a ways to go.
But I'm looking forward to the day where my wristwatch will tell me it's really time to mix in a salad for lunch and don't forget the Vitamin B today.