Google Glass, Samsung Galaxy Gear and the rumored Apple iWatch have turned up the hype-o-meter on wearable tech to deafening levels. You'd think they were the only players in the game. But such powerful gadgetry isn't the future of wearables, only a part of it.
At least that's the thinking from Christian DeFeo, e-supplier manager at Newark element14, an electronic design community for engineers and a component retailer. Instead of wearing $1,500 Google Glasses that delivers a sci-fi experience, he says, you're more likely to slip on an affordable ring equipped with near-field communications (NFC) technology that unlocks your car door.
"Google Glass is kind of an elite product that's only for a select few," because of the expected sky-high retail price, DeFeo says. "We see wearable technology being much more democratized than that."
Unlike the Green Lantern's glowing superpower ring, the NFC ring won't try to do everything. It won't act like a minicomputer delivering services like a smartphone, rather it will be an invisible yet practical tool in our everyday lives. And it certainly won't run into giant obstacles that can trip up more ambitious projects, like Google Glass and smart watches.
Wearables Meet Reality
Mobile experts agree that expensive, high-profile wearables will bump up against certain technological realities today, most notably power consumption and retail cost.
Google Glasses will reportedly break the $1,000 barrier, while a Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch runs $300 and must be used in conjunction with the upcoming Galaxy Note 3. Will people fork out hundreds of dollars merely for the convenience of glancing down at a 1.6-inch screen instead of whipping out their smartphone and looking at a 5.7-inch screen?
In the power consumption arena, smart devices still have a long way to go. Wireless charging technology and energy harvesting (such as solar, motion, thermal and magnetism) are still in its infancy.
Smartphones can barely make it through the day on a single charge. Glasses and smart watches lack the battery space of a smartphone while attempting to do basically the same things. It's unlikely people will want to recharge their glasses or smart watch several times a day.
Wearable technology can get around the power problem by working in tandem with a smartphone via Bluetooth. Wearables loaded with sensors or displays can let the smartphone do the heavy lifting, such as back end data processing and connectivity to cloud services. Samsung claims its Galaxy Gear smart watch has a battery life of about 24 hours.
"I think that the phone is becoming more central and more important," Jef Holove, CEO at smart watch maker Basis Point, said at the MobileBeat conference in San Francisco earlier this summer.
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