Fantasy Products Come to Life
Wearables are here to stay and will generate big revenues at retailAugust 28, 2013 By Jim Hamilton
For decades, the consumer electronics industry has been turning imaginary products into reality. In the 1940’s, cartoonist Chester Gould created Dick Tracy’s famous wristwatch radio. Although pure fantasy, it seized the imagination of readers. Many toy companies tried to capitalize on the illusion and rushed to market wearable walkie-talkies.
But it was Samsung that launched the first wristwatch phone, the SPH-WP10, in 1999. Fantasy no more! Meanwhile, Motorola answered the call of the Trekies and brought Star Trek Communicators to life in 1996 with the introduction of the StarTAC line of phones. Imaginary products in comic strips, TV and movies have caused us all to dream about how cool it would be to possess gadgets like Batman’s utility belt, James Bond’s laser beam pen and Inspector Gadget’s gizmos.
Fast forward to 2013. It seems that many of these once-fictional devices are finding their way onto retailers’ shelves. Did Star Trek: the Next Generation’s Geordi LaForge’s visor or Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) glasses spawn Google Glass? Whether it was comics, sci-fi or the inventor’s imagination, one thing’s for certain: wearable technology and wearable apps (the combination of phone apps and devices/products/sensors) are hitting the market at warp speed and are here to stay.
Juniper Research is projecting that wearable devices will reach 15 million units this year and will grow to 70 million devices by 2017. This is fantastic news for the CE industry and retailers, as new products translate to revenue and profit.
The rapid adoption of smartphones and tablets, coupled with the introduction of Google Glass, is establishing a platform that will enable wearable technologies with communication links, processing power and displays. New products will be lighter, cheaper and will hit the market faster than ever before. Imagine being wrapped in a mesh of wearable technology devices and sensors, all communicating with each other. By downloading a new app or changing the settings of an existing one, the devices provide a totally different experience. Could future wearable technologies make Iron Man’s suit a reality?
Future wearable products and categories will only be limited by the imagination. But today, a few product categories have taken the early lead in consumer product adoption.
Several wearable watch-type devices entered the market in 2011 that allow consumers to track walking or running via GPS while monitoring heart rate and calories burned, and wirelessly upload that data for viewing and analysis. As these units evolved, golf course maps, course statistics and even distance to the pin became key features. Sales show that consumers are clearly excited about new wearable sports and fitness devices.