Wearables

“A terminal, in the shape of a ring, button, bracelet or pen or whatever, was your link with everybody and everything else in the Culture.”

– Iain M. Banks, “A Player of Games” first published in 1988.

I’m certain Mr Banks was spot on with this prediction. The next evolutionary step for ‘mobile phones’ is the tiny wearable (badge, ring, bracelet) that provides your personal connection to the internet, establishes your location, and records health-related data.

Mobile phones have morphed into delicate, pocket-sized computers and it’s not always practical to carry one. Especially if you’re exercising or somewhere that isn’t mobile phone friendly, like the beach.

It makes a lot of sense to separate out the network-connecting part of your phone, the GPS, and the motion tracker and to carry these in one small wearable device. Any gadget that needs an internet connection can just tether to your Wearable. Admittedly it would be useful to also have some basic functionality. So you could send and receive messages for example. Or check the weather or traffic. Or get directions. However I don’t expect you’d want to take photos (looking at you Samsung) or watch television or read a book.

So, if you went for a run, you’d just wear your Wearable. It’s a badge or a bracelet or a belt clip or whatever. You’re still connected to the world, able to receive messages. Streaming music. Still tracking your exercise so you can analyse it later online. You can make your location visible to others, or get directions, or track your route. But there’s no mobile phone bouncing around in your pocket or strapped to your upper-arm.

Later on you watch live streaming TV on your 10 inch tablet – which is tethered to your Wearable. You decide to call your Mum on your 5 inch handset using the network connection provided by your Wearable. You take some photos on your digital SLR camera which automatically upload to Facebook via the Wearable’s internet connection. Neither the tablet, handset, or camera need to have an internet connection themselves.

Smart watches are heading in the right direction but with one major flaw, the network connection’s still in your mobile phone. They still need your phone within bluetooth range for them to have an internet connection.

Whoever makes this Wearable isn’t going to be making money from the software. This thing’ll run on the most basic OS. It doesn’t need to be all-singing and dancing. It’ll be the smallest, best looking bracelet with the best connection and reliability. Hardware and design will be key.

I’m looking at you Apple. The last few iPhones have been iteration not innovation. But then maybe this is already on your radar. Perhaps i-Wearables are already out in the world being tested?

Perhaps I’m way behind the times? Maybe this has already been done? Please comment!

And where does it go from there? Iain M. Banks predicted a future where a planet’s computer would detect that you were falling (location, speed of descent) and would send a drone to catch you before you hit the ground. Of course, only if you’d remembered to wear your terminal.

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One thought on “Wearables

  1. I’m not a fan of where wearables are heading. There’s an essay I am cooking up to explain why, but the core of it is the difference between wearables for quantifying the self (fitbit, etc) and devices that mediate your experience with the real world (augmented reality, possible future for Google Glass and Oculus Rift)

    Banks hit on some ideas that are powerful, as did Vernor Vinge in his book Rainbow’s End. My question is this: who benefits? Do the users gain substantially, or are they merely prey for vampire businesses that suck the data from our lives?

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