Tag Archives: wearable computing

Leaving CES, entering the future

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Developers jump on a new mobile platform.

If mobile, desktop and other devices like TVs converge on a single operating system, it'll be a Linux variant. When processing, display and input technology get to the point that the size and form factor of a device is irrelevant, an open source ecosystem will provide a cross-sector point of convergence for developers and manufacturers. Service providers will follow. It's an entrepreneurs' world.

Windows 8 will survive as a mobile operating system. It'll have a place in enterprise networks, because its integration with desktop computing will appeal to some IT managers. It could even edge out RIM if the Blackberry 10 OS fails to impress. But I didn't talk to a single consumer facing app developer who is coding for anything other than Android and iOS.

Makers starting moving into CES this year. 3D printing grabbed everyone's attention, with printer manufacturers' booths jammed and a few garage scale start-ups showing products. Expect a lot more next year.

Wearable computing and home automation are closer to being commonplace. Near term, wristwatch-style Bluetooth devices like Pebble will provide quick text and incoming call notifications, plus limited control functions for your smart phone. Long term, eyeglass mounted video displays and health monitors will become self contained and fully functional, with or without a phone.

Retailers, manufacturers and service providers are jumping into home automation. Managed services, industry verticals, do-it-yourself kits and proprietary systems were in abundance at CES.

There's no clear leader in the space, but there might not need to be. Whether it's by automatically associating to a home WiFi network, talking to a networked hub or connecting directly to mobile networks, smart home devices will get their smarts from cloud-based middleware platforms. Consumers can just plug and forget. Apps and web pages will provide information and control.

It's fair to call the International CES a technology event rather than a dedicated consumer electronics show. Distinctions between consumer and enterprise markets, and shrink wrapped products and core technologies are largely irrelevant. Calling it global is still a stretch. Although attendees come from all over, only a quarter of the world's countries were represented on the exhibit floor. Two continents – Africa and South America – were all but absent. India's presence barely registered. Big as this year's show was, there's room to grow in 2014.

The easy job was inventing wearable computing

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It takes mojo to make the glasses and cuffs work, baby.

Expect entrepreneurs to bring the best not-ready-for-prime-time wearable computing concepts to CES.

Samsung's flexible touch screen and Google's Glass project could be ready for market as early as CES 2014. The prototypes that'll be floated next week will show us if they've narrowed the gap between the clunky toys that are available today and the sleek artwork that designers have been teasing us with for years.

Nonetheless, the clunky toys offered by garage scale start-ups and small overseas manufacturers will be the most interesting products to see. Not for the technology, but for the usage cases and applications.

It's one thing to make a touch screen device that slips around your wrist like a shirt cuff or eyeglasses that put a video overlay onto the real world. It's another to give consumers something compelling to do with it.

Hungry and nimble, good start up companies substitute imagination for capital and squeeze the maximum juice out of wild ideas. It doesn't matter if their products can't deliver. It's enough if they can figure out what the promise needs to be.

Even if it doesn't guarantee their own success, it'll be enough to give the wearable computing category momentum to accelerate into the mass market. That's what I'll be trying to find in the back alleys of CES.

You can sell a few hundred thousand units of any cool, geeky gizmo to the boys and girls who love anything innovative. If you want people to buy hundreds of millions of them, you need the mojo to know why.