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Wearable Technology – And Yak Hair?


I’m not sure I want my wardrobe to be smarter than I am. And I’m not sure if I want my clothes sending messages – to me, or anyone else. Actually, I’m sure. I don’t want my socks to beat me in trivia games and then brag about it on Facebook.

This whole wearable technology phenomenon has a lot of interesting and positive aspects to it. But in other areas it dives right into the world of, to put it nicely:

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.

We’re in the ooooh, shiny! phase of the Internet of Things where potential is everywhere, everything seems like a good idea, and many people are moving too fast to ask the important question: Should we?

In this flurry of activity companies large and small, mainstream and fringe, are realizing “hey, we can stick sensors in this thing!”

Reality check: Sensor technology is small enough now that you can put them in anything. The trick is doing it in a way that makes sense and provides a benefit that’s actually beneficial. And for some idea-generators out there, that the combination of the sensor and the function makes sense.

I’m not against the idea of wearable technology. In fact, I’m considering hopping on the fitness-wristband bandwagon. Nike or Fitbit might not talk me out of that afternoon taste of dark chocolate, but the information they provide may convince me to walk the dog as penance.

There are all sorts of healthcare applications that make sense and can provide benefits to patients, families, and medical professionals alike. (Jorgen Ericsson has a good post, A Healthier You with Big Data, on that very topic.) Consider it collaboration in a more passive form. For example, I can communicate with and work with my healthcare provider by giving them information I may not even know I have.

Or whether I’d choose a SmartWig as part of my navigation system, or my gaming system, or my healthcare tracking. The very real patent application from a very real and well-regarded company provides a wide range of potential applications and materials: “The hair itself could, for example but not limited to that, be made from horse hair, human hair, wool, feathers, yak hair, buffalo hair or any kind of synthetic material.” I can’t quite picture the occasion for which I’d need the yak-feather-buffalo combination, but perhaps it exists.

Beyond the personal world, there’s huge potential in the business applications of wearable technology. Consider a technician working on a piece of machinery while accessing the manual via Google Glass. Or an application that uses an account manager’s location to bring up the customer’s order status and account information, leading with any priority alerts. These are just simple examples of all sorts of potential. And examples for technology developments for which someone asked and answered the “should we” question.

It will be interesting to see how these develop, both in the short term and in the longer term as more connections become part of the Internet of Things and more people identify logical yes answers to “should we?” Gartner predicts that the wearable fitness and personal health devices alone will be a $5 billion market by 2016.

Context, benefit, and logic are all in the mix. Yak hair isn’t.

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