Hot on the heels of the global smartphone revolution is a brand new game changer. No longer the stuff of sci-fi, wearable technology encompasses everything from Google Glass, the robot-like glasses containing computers that interact with the wearer’s physical world, to finger scanners, advanced electronic watches and even “e-textiles” that can monitor your heart rate or control your iPod.
According to new research, the global wearable electronics market, worth US $2.5bn in 2012, is expected to be climb to US $8bn by 2018. Combined with the wider “ecosystem” of industries surrounding wearable technology applications and enterprise, this total is predicted to hit US $14bn. Whilst some big industry names like Adidas, Google and Nike are helping to drive forward development, it is the large number of small players, says the report, that are becoming a force to reckon with. Fitbit, for example, which launched in 2007 and produces wearable health and fitness devices, raised US $43bn in investment last year, bringing its total funding to US $66bn.
For entrepreneurs who get it right, the rewards are huge – but, as with all hardware innovations, the risks are also high. The investor Tim Chang has outlined five areas that wearable technology star- ups must focus on to avoid the pitfalls along the way: assembling a killer team; telling a story, building a community and using crowdfunding; understanding the part played by data, users and metrics; and predicting wearable technology trends for the future. Most importantly, says Chang, you must be willing to really interrogate your ideas and plans throughout the process. Is the device really wearable? Will it get caught on clothing or interfere with other devices? Is it giving users the most useful information? Can you really make it in the time frame you’ve promised – and who will be handling the process when something, somewhere, is inevitably held up? And finally, do you have an exit plan?