While 2014 may have been declared the “year of wearables” by many technology journalists and bloggers, it is in 2015 when we will see wearables move towards mass market adoption, as well as starting to have a transformative impact on the enterprise. The potential impact on both consumers and enterprises will be profound.
On the consumer side for example, at the recent LeWeb Paris 2014 event, data was presented which suggested 45% of US and 32% of European adults were intrigued by the prospect of getting a wearable device. 42% were interested in getting a device for their wrist (and this data coming at a time when the Apple smart watch is predicted to sell anywhere between 10-25 million units in 2015).
Meanwhile in the enterprise wearables can help improve employee efficiency, communication, training, and lower barriers to decision making, as well as a range of other potential benefits. For example, in healthcare, Evena Medical’s application for Epson’s Moverio smart glasses helps nurses find blood veins. This means patients receive a faster, improved experience, as well as lowering the risk of infection.
But the real value of many of these wearable devices will come from the applications, software, and services which accompany them. Therefore in a recently published whitepaper Belatrix´s wearable experts examined the emergence of business applications targeted for wearable devices. Companies such as ClickSoftware have developed their “ShiftExpert” application which works on wearable devices to facilitate employees clocking in and out of their shifts. Meanwhile Proximity Insight developed an application which connects with in-store iBeacons to make the retail experience more efficient and personal. But creating these new applications for wearable devices creates a whole new set of challenges for developers. These challenges include:
- Diverse range of platforms stretch development resources and skills. Developers have a difficult task given that wearables run on a range of different platforms, from iOS to Android Wear to Tizen.
- APIs will be critical for the functionality of the wearable device. Even though you may know how to program Android or iOS applications, it is vital to be familiar with the APIs provided for each platform.
- Creative thinking needed to develop new use cases. One the biggest challenges is to think outside the box – and in this case, out of the smartphone. To fully benefit from the potential of wearables, it is necessary to break away from being considered a complement to a smartphone.
- Battery life will be a deciding factor. Until now the weakest point of wearables has been their battery life, particularly in the smart watch category. So when developing an app, it´s use of scarce resources is absolutely critical.
- User experience becomes even more important than it already is. Smart watches have very small screens and almost no buttons, making the use of space, navigation and user interaction incredibly important. Using gestures and knowing what to show and how much to show will be critical success factors for your application. Developers will need to work closely with UI designers.