Wearable Tech Goes Mainstream


Wearable technology is the blending of advanced electronics, sensors, and computing power into clothing or accessories that can be worn on the body. Wearables have come a long way, from smart glasses right out of a futuristic movie, to hidden fitness trackers that silently encourage us one step at a time. With the popularity of Fitbit and the fast-selling Apple Watch, wearables have burst into the mainstream.

Wearables are getting more powerful, but convenience may be the universal driving force that moves things forward. Borrowing from another hot tech trend, we can look at the popularity of mobile among all demographics--not just tech adopters. Banking apps are the most downloaded mobile apps in the finance category due to easy account access and electronic check cashing, showing that “convenience” is a universal expectation, not generational or targeted to a specific demographic. In financial services, we see individuals increasingly demand the same level of convenience for monitoring the market and managing their investment accounts as they do their savings account. Apple is taking convenience to the next level by brining wearable technology to the mainstream with their Apple Watch, creating a huge opportunity for themselves and the entire app ecosystem. 

One of the main headwinds to wearables taking off has been the way they stand out as futuristic technology. Of course there are first adopters and tech fans that want to make a statement, but the key to taking wearables mainstream is making them disappear into fashion. Apple understood this and set out to make a sharp looking watch, inviting the fashion industry to their unveiling announcement. After years of niche plays like Google Glass, wearable technology is ready for prime time. Wearables are going to be big over the next few years, and shorty thereafter it will be hard to remember life without them. This phenomenon will not be industry specific. The popularity of fitness trackers shows people are ready to start using technology in small everyday ways to make a big impact on their lives. The success of the Apple Watch shows people are ready to spend money on early versions of wearable tech. 

So what's next for wearables? The future is bright, and the possibilities are endless. Taking wearables further into the fashion industry is on deck, blending technology into clothing accessories. Early tech adopters tend to be dominated by men, but wearable tech needs to start targeting women to achieve true mainstream success. Imagine the potential for smart nails that can be applied and painted like any artificial nail. Smart nails could serve as health monitors to measure blood pressure, or they could be fitted with radio frequency ID tags to perform activities similar to an ID card--such as opening secure office doors. Wearable tech can also be embedded within jewelry itself, like rings, pendants, or bangles. 

Whether it's a new fashionable watch, artificial nails, or jewelry, the key to wearable technology will be blending in, not standing out. After years of niche applications, wearables are ready to take the main stage; are you ready?

Mike Barad is the Head of Product Components & Services for Morningstar. He leads an interdisciplinary product development organization that provides shared services, components, and mobile application development across Morningstar’s software products.

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