A couple of years ago the world collectively decided that we could confidently predict what’s coming next in the rapid world of consumer technology. After failing to foresee Facebook (too like Friends reunited), Linkedin (too boring) Twitter (too basic), Instagram (just filters, really?) and Snapchat (too annoying), we all took a collective breath and settled upon something called ‘Wearable Tech’ as the next game-changing tech movement.
The next step in bleeding edge tech was…erm…to wear it or, perhaps more accurately, strap it on. Clearly, ‘Strap-on’ tech was deemed a mixed message so ‘wearable tech’ became a somewhat surprisingly short lived moniker. It’s perhaps even more surprising because tech giants like Google made exactly the same mistake. Their Google Glass seemed pretty cool, if a little geeky, and just about ‘minority report’ enough to almost work – in the same way that Marty McFly’s self tying Nikes almost work and are still on my Christmas list, where they’ve been a permanent (although unrealised) fixture since 1985!
Probably the most high profile early stage ‘wearable’, Google Glass, came and went along with other overly avant-garde things such as the innovative (though ahead of it’s time) Pebble Watch which has now been acquired by one of the few wearable success stories, Fitbit, itself experiencing slowing sales. Jawbone, another pioneering brand of it’s time in the fitness tracking market has recently announced that it’s effectively shutting down its consumer activity to focus on healthcare providers in a B2B capacity. It goes on. Microsoft have discontinued their ‘fitness band’ too, deeming it not successful enough to pursue. It’s clear that the one area where wearable tech has succeeded is in the personal fitness space but even that is a limited market with not enough bandwidth to support more than three or four brands and for a behemoth like Microsoft to be squeezed out, well that’s saying something.
I’ve even attended a business pitch where a company was raising funds for cycling jackets with built-in flashing indicators and hi-vis jackets with ‘hazard lights’ (that look like Christmas lights) and, only a year ago, hard-nosed investors lapped it up!
So, what’s the problem? What did Microsoft and Google get so wrong? Well, not much in fact. It’s not so much about ‘wearable tech’ not being fit for purpose, it’s more about it’s reliance on smartphones and secondary ‘support’ devices which seem to have dealt the sector a debilitating blow.
The second generation Apple Watch is getting close and is, potentially, breaking new ground. Sales are strong and it’s almost worthy of being recognized as a stand alone device. But there’s still a problem.
Well, in Ubamarket’s case, two problems.
Firstly, it still relies to a great extent on an iphone support device to power many of the features (this is fiddly and a hassle) – including the admittedly decreasingly prominent phone feature. Secondly, and way more importantly, there’s no camera.
Now, if it had a camera, this is how Ubamarket could work.
“Siri – add milk, cheese, eggs and bread to my shopping list”
Walk into the store, tap each item against your Apple watch, pay with Apple pay and walk out. Now that is the future of shopping. And way more simple, achievable, flexible, scalable, universal and affordable than Amazon Go will ever be.
Suddenly, wearable tech is fast, seamless and hugely valuable to anyone who goes shopping which, by the way, is all of us.
The current problem with wearable tech is actually very simple. It doesn’t really do anything that your phone doesn’t already do and, what’s more, it still relies on you having your phone with you to make it work. “Why take one device when you can take two?” is never a slogan that’s going to catch on in the tech world. Put a phone (and a camera) in a watch and wearable tech will have many purposes beyond being a phone, a camera and a watch…