The title sounds like some new spy thriller or headlines about a new NSA leak, but it is not: It is the reality of wearable computing. When people hear “wearable computing,” they think of Google Glasses or the Apple Watch, but the industry is much broader than that.Don’t make the mistake thinking this is just a fad that will pass quickly. Hardware, applications, and services that make up the wearable computing market are currently estimated at reaching nearly $40 billion by 2020, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35%. It should be noted that forecasts are all over the board at this point.
Still, we are talking billions of devices embedded in shirts, pants; virtually every article of clothing are currently under consideration. We should not forget accessories like shoes, belts and hats either. This isn’t clunky-looking stuff, either – I saw a pair of high-fashion “smart” high heels that had an equally high price. You know when the fashion industry is an early adopter of tech, there must be something to it.Venture investors are interested in both the hardware and application opportunities within this industry. There are even crowdfunding opportunities and investments underway. Technological breakthroughs in low power consumption circuitry, sensors, carbon nanotubes (pictured above), and flexible/bendable circuit boards are enabling the dramatic advancement of this rapidly emerging market segment.
Healthcare is expected to be the largest application area for wearable devices. From clinical trials to 24/7/365 remote tele-health monitoring services, wearable computing will have a significant impact on the entire healthcare delivery model and the pharmaceutical industry. Other hot industry segments include sports, event management, insurance, field service, and of course retail, while potential markets include training, military and law enforcement, entertainment, and gaming.It is easy to see how all this will have a big impact, but there is also the indirect impact. Think about all the data that those billions of devices are going to generate. It has to be stored somewhere. Now think about all the new methods and tools that will be necessary to understand the data and the business intelligence analytics that will put all that understanding to work. The possibilities seem endless.While the future of wearables is primarily bound by our entrepreneurial spirit, innovative mindset, and access to funding, concerns are being raised about cyber security and privacy. Those two areas are big challenges for sure. While all of this adds up to big opportunity, we should remain cautiously optimistic and closely monitor this rapidly emerging technology.