THE BLOG

Wearable Technology in the Cloud

22/10/2014 12:43 BST | Updated 21/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Wearable technologies - clothing and accessories incorporating computer and electronic technologies - are increasing in popularity and featured highly on the catwalks this season during recent global fashion shows. And it is likely their popularity will continue to grow further as their presence becomes the new 'norm' in our daily lives, appealing not just to computer geeks and fitness fanatics but everyone.

In fact a recent report by CCD Insight forecast that the wearable technology market is set to expand from 9.7 million device shipments in 2013 to 135 million in 2018. That's more than a ten-fold increase. And in financial terms, a Deloitte study estimated that wearable technology devices would sell approximately ten million units in 2014, meaning that the industry is on track to generate around $3 billion by the end of the year.

The variety of wearable technologies has broadened significantly too over recent months, and ranges from smart-watches like the Apple Watch, smart glasses like Google Glass, fitness trackers and even smartech-enabled articles of clothing that give wearers access to a whole range of futuristic features, such as notifications about incoming emails or text messages.

But without advances in cloud computing, wearable technology wouldn't be possible or have taken off to such an extent. In fact cloud has been the real driver in the growth of wearable technology which is now equally popular in terms of work-related gadgets as well as home and personal ones. By allowing people to connect to the internet anytime and anywhere, people are able to use these gadgets as part of their day to day lives. And if we're truthful would be completely lost without them.

Cloud technology also means products don't need to be synced anymore and they'll 'talk' and respond to each other. For example when you remove a smart bracelet and put in in the charging bowl or dock, it will realise you're at home. So it allows people to do and track more things, but in a smarter and easier way.

A unique and recent illustration of wearable technology and cloud computing in action can be seen in the example of Alfa-Bank in Russia. The bank has cleverly blended fitness and banking - not two things you immediately associate together - with its Savings Account Activity. This high-interest-rate savings account rewards customers for exercising. The technology connects fitness trackers to the accounts of Alfa-Bank customers who, depending upon how much they exercise, can transfer money from regular accounts to the Activity account.

As wearable technology will no doubt continue to evolve and become more mainstream, the challenge for developers and manufacturers will be to finding what differentiates these new devices from existing ones - such as mobile phones - that most people already own.

In the example of smart watches for example, the display size will introduce new challenges when designing applications and developers should focus on user experience as opposed to adding lots of complex features the that are hard for customers to use - as poor design and being difficult to use will actually deter consumers from using applications, even if they've been designed to be useful and make their lives easier. Also they'll needs 'glanceable' messages that aren't too wordy - and frequency of alerts needs to be controlled and avoid marketing and the feeling of being 'sold to' too much.

Though this new and evolving market is undeniably hot, it's also a vast arena of untapped potential. Devices are creating more and more data, and we've only begun to scratch the surface of what related apps can do. Ultimately though, it is those that tap into the data created from all wearable devices and use the analysis and insight will be the winners.

For example, FitBit - wireless-enabled wearable devices that measure data such as the number of steps walked, quality of sleep, and other personal metrics - that is an IBM SoftLayer cloud customer, uses data to produce a daily activity tracker for users to see and understand impact of their movements throughout the day. But in the future, as FitBit's data-gathering capabilities advances, combined with SoftLayer's cloud, this could be used widely in the health-care market to prevent and care for individuals needing to carefully monitor their diets and weight for more serious health reasons.

The future in this space is truly exciting - not just from an individual but also a business perspective too. If companies don't embrace this new wearable technology and the endless possibilities it brings, they risk becoming irrelevant in an increasingly technology-driven society - standing still is not an option.