Fashion with Function: Designing for Wearables


The Next Big Wave in Technology

Wearables, also referred to as body-borne computers, are small electronic or sensor devices that are worn on the physical body — either on the bare skin or on top of clothing. They do not include computing devices that are implanted within the body (a medical domain that I expect will grow over the next decade); rather they are attached to the body.

Wearable computing is not a new concept — it has been around for more than half a century,[] mostly used for military purposes, assisting soldiers and aviators in the battlefield. Over time, as technology advanced and computer components increased in power while shrinking in size, the range of wearable technology applications grew, expanding into the consumer market. From healthcare, fitness, and wellness, which have already started blooming, to gaming, entertainment, music, fashion, transportation, education, finance, and enterprise, wearable technology is creating a massive new mobile market, with the power to transform the way people behave and interact with devices, the environment, and one another.

Today, wearable devices span the gamut from smart rings, bracelets, and necklaces, to smart glasses and watches, to smart gloves, socks, and t-shirts. Moreover, wearables don’t stop at humans. There are already smart collars for dogs, cats, and even cows,[] monitoring their activity, health, and behavior 24/7, while keeping owners connected to their four-legged friends at all times.

The wearable device market is still in its infancy, but it’s growing fast. According to IMS Research/31 the number of units shipped is expected to grow from 14 million in 2011, to 171 million devices shipped by 2016. ABI Research forecasts a much stronger penetration with 485 million annual device shipments by 2015. BI Intelligence estimates annual wearables shipments crossing the 100 million milestone in 2014, reaching 300 million units by 2018.

In terms of revenue, Transparency[32] anticipates that the global wearables market, which stood at $750 million in 2012, will reach $5.8 billion in 2018 (a compound annual growth rate of 40.8 percent). According to IMS research/33 the wearables market will already exceed $6 billion by 2016.

Regardless of whether the $6 billion line will be crossed in 2016 or 2018, all these market estimations point to the same conclusion: wearables are the next big wave in technology.

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