Wearables: A technology push or a market pull?

16 January 2014

Smart Fabrics & Wearable Technology 2014 taking place April 23-25, 2014 in San Francisco, will kick off with a keynote presentation by Paul Brody, Vice President & Global Industry Leader, Electronics, IBM Manufacturing's Open Source Future.

paul brodyLearn more about Paul Brody's views on game changing technologies, market synergies, and entrepreneurial advice.

In your opinion what are the main game changing technologies affecting the smart fabrics and wearable technologies space and what would you like to see being developed in the near future?

Wearables and smart fabrics are quickly coming to market that do lots of data gathering, but we are already seeing that many tracking systems do not seem to alter user behavior in meaningful ways after the initial burst of enthusiasm.

I believe that the next big breakthrough in wearables will be the addition of forms of feedback that provide subtle but in-the-moment reminders to do things like get up and walk around, take the stairs instead of elevator or other things.

Lots of research into human behavior says that trying to remember and manage too many things causes cognitive exhaustion, as does complex decision making. Finding ways to let people pursue better habits and health on "auto-pilot" will the key to making them valuable.

There has been a lot of talk about wearables being more of a technology push than a market pull - how do you see the synergy happen between the great innovative ideas that so many start-ups and established technology companies are developing and the consumer embracing them and turning into mass market products?

Absolutely. I have spent the last week at the Consumer Electronics Show and this is the most exciting in many years. Lots of new companies are offering products and form factors and ideas from cookers to connected socks to connected toothbrushes. It's a see-what-works free-for-all that will generate a lot of innovation. Most of it will fail, but that doesn't matter if we find some gems out this period of experimentation.

We see a lot of prototypes that sometimes don't take the leap into real products, what do you recommend to the entrepreneurs when developing their ideas into reality?

Crowdsourcing and communities. Web sites like Kickstarter are amazing not just for their ability to raise funds, but for their ability to generate instant communities and powerful feedback without too much cost and risk. I've seen a lot of projects on these sites where they are actually doing their second try - taking feedback from the first time, which failed, and trying again often with much better results.

What are you looking forward to hear at the Smart Fabrics and Wearable Technology Conference this year?

I come at this market from a business perspective - I spend much of my time thinking about business models and strategy. I am looking forward to learning about the emerging technologies - real materials and technical innovations - and then pondering how those could be used to solve some of my clients' business challenges.

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