Wearable technology, the next big thing?

Technology firms are ready to take the next big leap by diversifying their portfolios into a new market.

After Samsung’s announcement on 4 September that they will be releasing a ‘fashion icon’ in the form of the anticipated Galaxy Gear smartwatch, it seems that the technology industry has turned its eye toward the lucrative fashion industry. Whilst there are no confirmed figures for the level of demand for new products that bring together smart technology with fashion accessories, businesses like Samsung will be hoping that this is the next big trend.

News on the grapevine is that Samsung pipped Apple to the post by making their announcement first. Apple is expected to announce a rival product by the end of September in readiness for the big Christmas sales war, signalling the start of a new battleground for the two technology giants.

The fashion industry is highly lucrative and extremely difficult to break into. With so many established brands dominating the market, transplanting a successful brand from another sector into fashion isn’t a ticket to success. With profit margins in some cases around 60%-70%, it comes as no surprise that they are willing to take a calculated risk and make their move.

If successful, this new venture by technology firms will create a plethora of new products that go far beyond smartwatches and into an age of ‘wearable technology’.

Technology will be so much more embedded into our lifestyles that we will no longer rely on our mobile phones as the dominant source for connectivity. Expect every possible fashion accessory to be merged with WiFi and Bluetooth technology as tech companies mine the market for gold. It won’t be pretty but there may be some fantastic products that shape our buying habits in the future.

My hope is that technology companies are able to take a backseat and let the creative talents in the fashion industry lead on design. Consumers want pieces that look like fashion accessories and not like ‘devices’. The only way for this to be achieved is for this new venture to be driven by fashion houses, not computer engineers.

Samsung’s new smartwatch was definitely computer engineer driven. Alone the watch is quite useless, but when coupled with your mobile phone the watch can be used to make and receive calls. When your watch rings, you simply lift your hand to cover your ear (as though you are in a noisy place) and the phone will then automatically answer, as it recognises the gesture. For me, this is possibly the strangest and most unnatural use of a watch, yet Samsung is confident that they will be able to change consumer behaviour and make this the norm.

I may be proven wrong but I doubt this will catch on. If the smartwatch is to succeed, Samsung needs to start working more closely with fashion houses to create elegant fashion accessories that carry technology and not the other way around.

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