Disruptive W

Earlier this fall, Frost & Sullivan released an industry report entitled “Wearable Technology – Has the next enterprise game changer arrived?” The report provides familiar forecasts of rapid growth for the wearables market, but it goes deeper with its analysis of the impact that these new devices will have on existing markets. The report lists three drivers that will be disruptive forces that reach far into a wide range of industries.

  1. The “Internet of Things” is making far more information available, and providing new ways to interact with and act on that information. Wearables present new gateways to access this data, and to control devices whether they are near or far from the wearer.
  2. Wearable devices can provide “contextual computing” to process this available data. It will lead to new ways of interacting with our surroundings, as wearables take on the proactive roles of teacher, guide, and adviser, without waiting for the user to prompt for interaction.
  3. The device will give the wearer new and enhanced capabilities, from augmented reality that provides more data about the person’s location, to new ways to locate and identify objects or information.

Taken together, these factors can drive change that is difficult for us to imagine at this early stage. I have written a lot about how wearable devices are likely to lead to better healthcare at lower costs for greater numbers of people worldwide, but it goes beyond that. Wearables can impact what we learn and how we learn it. What information do you need to have memorized when you have a device that gives you near-instant access to the world’s knowledge? How might schools change? How will this help employers train and orient new workers? And it will change how we work. Dangerous tasks will be made far safer when ever-alert wearable devices are monitoring the work environment, and preventing injury before it happens. And wearable technology could become a form of digital identification, which will have enormous impact on something as simple as how we pay for items or securely access “personal” property such as our homes or cars.

I will continue to focus on the health and medical implications of wearable technology, but this Frost & Sullivan report reminds us that it’s difficult to overstate just how far-reaching the impact of wearable devices will be.