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Wearable tech: What were you wearing before GLASS?

Stewart Hunter, Somo

Maybe that’s the question we’ll be asking ourselves in the 2020s. The concept certainly has the disruptive potential to become a generation defining piece of technology, and the hype has given it a healthy kick start. It could be the product, or perhaps the start of a product line, that creates a historical break of the world before and after it. That said, most of the world won’t be wearing this particular look in the next few years unless the price drops dramatically, the ability to manufacture it increases considerably and the developers create an explosion of glassware to give it more functionality. So what other wearables could be spotted in before the summer of 2015?

Over the past six months, if you’ve been able to look beyond rather than through the wearable tech ‘GLASS’ lens, you’ll have seen an increasing number of wearable devices appearing on the wrists rather than the faces of technophiles . The trend that started in the US is now gaining traction across the world’s major cities. Nike+’s FuelBand and Jawbone’s UP are the two trail blazing products. Both of them enable people to permanently monitor one of the fundamental aspects of their lifestyle, how active they actually are. The trend of life logging through discrete wearable technology has more recently entered Asian markets. Currently the Singapore supplier of Jawbone’s UP is out of stock, the trend is gaining momentum here.

Personally, I’ve always tried to experience the world anew through technology and so, naturally, I’ve tried wearing both the FuelBand and UP wristband. I tried out Nike+’s FuelBand in March and I must admit after the initial excitement was over, it felt a little gimmicky. Within a fortnight I’d moved on to wear UP.

Some of the most fulfilling moments of my life have been when I’ve felt modernity in motion. Wearing UP has definitely created a moment of experiencing modernity. Once you are wearing it on your wrist the way you experience your life changes before your eyes. During the day, UP tracks your every move and then during the night how you sleep. In addition to this automatic monitoring you can enrich the data further by recording what you eat and even how you mood evolves. The data’s richness and accuracy coupled with the simplicity of its collection is fantastic, but ultimately it’s the way that I can make sense of it through my smartphone that’s been crucial. It’s enabled me to understand my new view on my world.

Above and beyond enabling me to experience my everyday world in a different way, UP’s real value has been its ability to make me alter my lifestyle. When you can constantly and easily measure something it seems you do make adjustments to your life so as to ensure that you achieve your goals. I’ve found myself being more active, not necessarily running more marathons but making small positive changes. The amount of sleep I get has increased since I’ve started monitoring it, such that now I generally got an hour more each night. Even what I consume has become healthier.

For the Jawbone brand the effect can only be positive. It has certainly become one of my favourite technology brands. I’ve already bought a number of Jawbone’s other products, and I’m eager to find out more. It’s not quite the cult of Apple but there is a strong emotional attachment to Jawbone forming.

Other rival companies will be looking at Jawbone and trying to distil what they’ve achieved with UP to make it such a great piece of wearable tech. Five key elements that others should look to replicate are:

Its simplicity
From the physical design through to how the data is collected, it is simple and non-intrusive. UP just does what it needs to with little input from the user. In all technology this is key, however when you wear it, simplicity and style increase in importance.

The use software
UPs use of the smartphone is brilliant. It ensures that the data is displayed on the most important electronic device most of us own, keeping the product visible and prominent within your everyday life. Wearable tech will always need to effectively utilise the central device in your life. For me this will continue to be the smartphone for some time to come.

How data is handled
The amount of it, how rich it is, the variety of the ways you can view it and its accuracy are fantastic. It means UP never feels like a gimmick but rather a window into a treasure trove of your unseen personal life which until a few years ago you’d never of imagined being able to access so easily.

Its ability to learn
UP doesn’t simply record, it actively learns. Not only does it recognise what the data means but depending on what lifestyle you are leading it comments and gives words of motivation. If you give feedback the technology then evolves and improves. This product certainly doesn’t stand still! As technology becomes more intimate I think the need for devices to build a relationship with the user will become increasingly important.

The use of social
With all experiences if you can make it inherently social there is an added dimension to the product. For UP you can connect with your community to share your performance and help motivate each other. The flexibility in which elements of your data that you share is spot on. Within a world where wearable sensors proliferate being able to easily understand and control what information you share will be crucial to gaining mass adoption.

So in 10 years time, when I’m asked what I was before GLASS, I’ll be saying UP for sure. I just hope that it will be continuing to have the same impact on my lifestyle then as it’s had over the past few months. I’d much prefer to recount how wearable tech increased my length of quality of my life rather than enabled me to take a hands free picture of my favourite char kway teow dish and post it on Facebook…