‘Wearables’ will need backing from the ‘big five’ to go mainstream, claims Forrester

By Graeme Burton
19 Apr 2012 View Comments

The "big five" technology companies – Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon.com and Facebook – will take wearable computing from niche to mainstream, according to a new report from analysts Forrester Research.

While ear-mounted Bluetooth headsets have become a common sight – 13 per cent of mobile phone owners in the US now use one, according to market research – wearables have remained niche. However, new developments will see them become more popular, according to the research.

Further reading

Earlier this year, notes Forrester, mobile phone maker Nokia showed off a magnetic tattoo that could vibrate when the wearer received incoming calls and messages.

"In the past year, consumer wearables such as the BodyMedia Armband and Nike+ FuelBand have proliferated in the health and fitness space [and] in 2012, we'll see wearables begin to break out of communication, health and fitness to other verticals such as navigation, social networking, gaming, and commerce," states the report.

The big question mark over any technology, of course, is the applications. A number of applications have been developed and deployed using wearable technologies, claims Forrester.

These include:

  • The embedding of RFID tags and sensors into runners' shoes. During the 2011 ING New York City Marathon, sensor mats were used to identify runners at various stages so that messages could be relayed to the runners from their supporters in the crowd;
  • WIMM Labs' Android wristwatches that contain a Starbucks payment card;
  • Google Glasses, which incorporate GPS, motion sensors and a camera with audio input and output, creating a "wraparound" heads-up display.

Forrester believes that wearables will need backing from the ‘big five' platforms to make it to the next stage.

"To participate in this next wave of consumer technology product innovation, product strategists – especially those in software, gaming, media, commerce and payments – must experiment with applications for wearables on the "big five" platforms: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon.com and Facebook," states Forrester.

Google has an open platform in Android; Microsoft offers Windows Embedded, which is already in use in a number of "intelligent systems"; Amazon has unprecedented reach as a global retailer, selling more than 100 million products; Apple has the institutional ability to turn an idea into a mainstream product; and Facebook has the information on 800 million people.

Indeed, Facebook is already implementing facial recognition software so that pictures can be autotagged, which when married to wearables would enable devices to automatically identify people – assuming that Facebook's software works.

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