What are Wearables?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines wearable as ‘something that is capable of being worn’. The Cambridge dictionary states that ‘clothes that are wearable are easy to wear because they are comfortable, acceptable in most social situations and look attractive in combination with other clothes’. It goes a step further in defining wearable technology. The Cambridge dictionary states that ‘wearable technology consists of things that can be worn such as clothing or glasses, which contain computer technology or have the ability to connect to the Internet’.
Since the last few years, technologies that can be worn have become a fashion statement. It all started in 1980 with the calculator watch, the tiny device on the wrist that could tell time and also do complex calculations, a rage amongst kids in school who thought it had more of a “functional” value than a fashion statement. Of course, you could walk into arithmetic tests and score.
Since then, wristwatches that could connect with the phone or become the phone/ communication channel, like in James Bond and spy movies, have always been an eye candy. Hidden cameras inside neckties, Bluetooth microphone on a pair of earrings, Keyboard Pants and Google Glass were some off-beat wearable tech discussed, developed and then let go. According to a survey by Forbes, more than 70% of 16-24 year olds want wearable tech and another survey somewhere in the UK stated that more than 50% youngsters thought it was just a fad.
Since the last few years, we have been noticing an influx of all kinds of wearable devices. I am going to focus on wearable smartwatches and bands, not some keyboard pants, since that’s what is most relatable and discuss why these devices of the IoT realm are not exactly “fashion” rather “functional” technologies. Lets break it down:
These IoT wearable devices come under a category that can be worn by a consumer, which includes tracking information related to health and fitness or tech gadgets that have small motion sensors to take photos and sync with mobile devices. Wikipedia (yes I am quoting Wiki) states that wearable technology; wearables fashionable technology, wearable devices, tech togs, or fashion electronics are smart electronic devices (electronic device with microcontrollers) that can be worn on the body as implant or accessories. The designs often incorporate practical functions and features.
I feel watches have always been and maybe will be a thing of aesthetics, pride and prowess. From Corum to Rolex to Tag Heuer to Chopard to Omega to Ulysses Nardin to Jaeger Lecoultre to Rado to Tissot, people wear watches not only for keeping time but also telling time. It exhibits a fashion statement. A lot of people say that the kind of watch a person wears talks about his/ her taste in fashion. Talking from a completely practical perspective, except telling the time, what else does a watch do?
My answer to that would be the same reason people spend thousands of dollars on jewelry, art or collectables. I could even go on further to say cars and houses, but that would be pushing it too far (how can I compare a house to a watch?). So, about the other things, we spend a lot of money on those not for utility, rather for pure expression, like a specific haircut or a suit or a dress. I feel owning a real timepiece opens up an area of cultural, historical, mechanical and aesthetic appreciation in a person’s life.
I read this in Quora a while back while I was researching for smartwatches, “A true timepiece is a piece of art. Take the Patek Philippe Caliber 89 for example. This is a $5,000,000 (yes million) watch. However it has about 14 functions, without a battery. It took about 5 years of research and development, then another 5 to build. A watch has a story, just like everyone’s life does.”
Maybe the millennials will pass on their iWatches, Garmins, Fitbits, Samsung Gears to future generations (that’ll be a funny scene), possibly that will become a family heirloom (really?). I guess they will miss out on stories about the reason why fathers and grandfathers had passed on watches from son to son, (or daughters to daughters – I don’t want to come across as a male chauvinist). Probably the next generation will get to hear things like, “When I was 32 your mother had gifted me this Fitbit to keep a track of my heart-rate, I used to have high cholesterol, now its your time to keep fit, son.” You don’t buy an iWatch to hold onto and pass down generations.
Coming back to smartwatches, they all look the same and almost all do the same kind of things. Fitness, time, email and message alerts. Probably in the future they will be your digital IDs for opening doors or connected with everything around you. I think since time immemorial, people have been changing the way they tell time, earlier there was the pocket watch then came the wristwatch and now there are smart-watches. A lot of people believe that smartwatches pose a threat of eating into the pie of mechanical watches, but I feel analog, mechanical and automatic wristwatches will remain items of aesthetics, emotional value and a status symbol.
I feel that the movement of a classy timepiece keeps reminding you that the hours, minutes and seconds are not stopping for anyone and neither should you. And that message just somehow goes beyond a heart rate monitor or a calorie counter or an email notification on your wrist.