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Wearable tech. Solutions in search of problems?


According to this weeks Sunday Times Style supplement wearable tech is set to be worth $50bn by 2019 (compared with $4.5bn last year). Currently there is a lot of talk about collaboration between the luxe brands and the techies (in the wake of nobody wanting to be seen dead in Google Glass). A lot of the tech is going to be very expensive, and of questionable use (could you be bothered to program your shirt ? Would you like your jewelry vibrating when a close friend is calling your phone, while your jacket vibrates to tell you to turn left to find that meeting?). Presumably in time the tech will follow flat screen TVs and the laws of a free market generally, with the costs soon dropping. Then it will become a more democratic proposition.

It feels like we are in a moment of ‘commodity rush’ where lots of variations on the same theme are all competing foe attention, funding and an audience. Much of this will be lost in the flux. And I believe two kinds of products will rise to the top. Firstly, ones that actually serve a purpose and unobtrusively make our lives a little better, possibly solving problems we don’t even know we have. For example wearable tech that helps us locate our missing toddlers or errant teenagers. One would imagine it could be of great help to the less ‘able bodied’. And secondly products that better express a brand idea we have already bought into – be it performance, elegance or sharing. In other words, something that is less random than ‘because we can’, and has an emotional dimension.

I guess what I am driving at is that brands have a real opportunity to reach a little further via relevant wearable tech. But equally there is a risk of creating this eras version of Heath Robinson inventions – amusingly over-complicated solutions to problems we don’t really have.