Industry experts are touting wearable technology as the next big market opportunity. With research conducted by the University of London estimating that the market will be worth $19 billion in 2019, now is the time for SMEs to carve out their niche in the sector.
Joining the major players
Wearable technology is defined as any device that is worn and connected to the body in some way. Companies such as Nike, Google, Samsung and Apple have already recognised its huge potential with developments like Google Glass and Nike FuelBand, but there is also a vibrant culture of start-ups and entrepreneurs developing hardware and software in this field. Although smaller companies will have to work hard to compete with the major players, there are plenty of opportunities for SMEs, given the right investment and support.
We have already seen a number of UK SME success stories in the sector. In 2012, a former Accenture technology consultant launched Kovert Designs, a company that creates designer wearable technology products by embedding electronic sensors and wireless connections into fashion accessories. The same year saw the introduction of myHealthPal, a health platform designed to manage almost any long-term illness or chronic condition using wearable technology.
And last year, Sentimoto won the London Wearable Technology Show 2014 start-up competition when it launched wearable sensors to help older people remain independent.
Dr Chris Brauer is Director of Innovation at the Institute of Management Studies (IMS) at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Founder of the Centre for Creative and Social Technologies (CAST). “It is a perfect storm for wearable technology at the moment,” he says. “The processing power of technology is doubling every 18 months and that is leading to smaller, faster processing capacity, which is helping devices to become more integrated.”
It is predicted that wearable technology will succeed the smartphone as the primary method to access mobile web and digital content. If true, the potential market is considerable, particularly for tech-focused SMEs. “We will see all mobile and network providers needing to engage,” says Chris. “App developers currently building apps for phones will also need to consider the idea that new platforms are emerging.”
At the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, much of the news related to wearable technology. “There were innovations such as a shirt that collected biometric data using sensors embedded into its fabric,” says Chris. “Wearable technology was garnering more attention at the event than any of the news around mobile phone developments,” he adds.
Wearable technology in the workplace
Chris is currently working on a project exploring the correlation between wearable technology and performance and productivity in the workplace. “We have been looking at a range of devices, from EEG scanners that record electrical activity in the brain, to headbands that monitor concentration, stress and anxiety,” he says. Preliminary results from the research show that wearables improve productivity by 8.5% and job satisfaction by 3.5% – a set of data that should get creative minds buzzing.
Indeed, with the endless possibilities for innovation and profit, the only barrier for SMEs looking to enter this expanding market is their imagination.
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