Jury is out on long-term popularity of wearable technology

Wearables may represent the start of a major disruption

A wealth of tech gadgetry will be unwrapped this week, much of it destined for a bottom drawer alongside chunky old Nokias and Wii remotes.

Wearable tech is likely to be the star attraction this Christmas, helpfully tracking our vain attempts to shed the turkey in the New Year. Such devices as the Fitbit (above), Jawbone, Nike Fuelband and the like are all expected to prove popular. However the big ticket item has missed the Christmas rush: Apple's Watch is likely to be the biggest item next year.

Yet the jury is still out over the long-term popularity of wearables. The market for consumer electronics is fickle and consumers tend to buy in herds. In a market where fashion matters as much as tech ability, it’s important to see others using the tech before a product can get traction.

Google Glass is one example of this: a new tech trend surrounded by hype and build-up but which has drawn more than its fair share of public ire over fears of intrusion into people's privacy. Social acceptance is vital for a tech gadget but the Glass has people spooked about what it is capturing and monitoring. The same issues spring up with other wearable devices and everyone has certain boundaries around privacy intrusion.


There is no question that Glass has the potential to be a major disruptor in everyday life, not just privately but in the working world. A recent Gartner report suggests that companies using Glass and similar wearable gadgets could save up to $1 billion a year within three to five years. Sectors like medical, security and manufacturing could be significantly affected. For example, using Glass, medical professionals can call upon patient data via facial recognition. There are also evident benefits from collating and monitoring health data on a more regular basis, both for the individual and society.

However, timing is everything and as usual the first generation of disruptive devices are normally the playthings of the well-heeled. It’s not until they seep into wider society that the potential of a new paradigm is recognised and the devices widely accepted. As it was with the mobile phones so it will be with wearables. They represent the start of a major disruption.