- The Apple Watch will be success
In 2015 it became hard to leave the house without being buried under a wave of claims and counterclaims about the success – or otherwise – of the Apple Watch, while Apple kept wisely / suspiciously (delete according to your views) mum on how many units the Watch had sold. We can probably say, though, that in 2015 the Apple Watch was neither an outstanding success, nor an outright failure. But Apple won’t be happy with that and you can bet that the Apple Watch 2.0, when it is released, will be a significant improvement on version 1.0. In fact, rumours have it that the new Apple Watch will have both improved battery life and be able to do more independently of the iPhone, overcoming to the top two complaints currently heard around the Apple Watch. That will help to attract more buyers. But the real reason that the Apple Watch will be a success in 2016 is because Apple simply won’t let such an important product fail.
- The return of Google Glass
And talking of big-name failures, 2016 will see Google Glass return, as Google relaunches its flagship wearable product for business use. Rumours have, of course, been circulating since Google ended the Glass Explorer programme in January 2015 that the device would return in the near future aimed at industries such as health care and manufacturing, a move that makes a great deal of sense. But Google itself has kept quiet on the matter, having perhaps been burned by the device’s original high-profile launch. In December, however, it was revealed that Google had filed a patent for a new version of Glass that would feature both a foldable design and (it appears) a larger screen, so 2016 seems ripe for the device’s return, even if Google probably won’t make such a song and dance about it this time.
- High fashion getting (more) involved
If Google Glass for business sounds a bit, well, dull compared to the thrill-seeking original, fear not: fashion brands are set to steam into the wearables market in 2016, creating products – be they watches or smart clothes – that are both stylish and technologically adept. We have already seen several examples of this in 2015 – think Ralph Lauren’s smart polo shirt, or TAG Heuer’s Carrera Connected smartwatch – but with Apple assiduously courting the fashion world to promote its Apple Watch, Google hooking up with Levi’s for Project Jacquard (“technology woven in”) and the fashion world’s love of a gadget, we can expect to see ever more of this over the next 12 months.
- Your doctor will take an interest in your wearable
A fashionista he or she may not be but your doctor will most likely take an interest in your wearable device in 2016 nonetheless. Doing so makes a lot of sense, after all: useful as it is for you to know how many steps you’ve taken / calories you’ve burned / hours you’ve slept etc in the last week, your doctor is going to have a far better idea of what this actually means for your overall health. Of course, there will be privacy issues – some people won’t like the idea of handing over this information to their doctor – but for the vast majority of wearable users, the benefits of letting their GP have a look at their Fitbit will be clear.
- Expect a wearables data scare
The tech world in 2015 was dominated by news of data leaks and privacy fears, as company after company was exposed by hackers and / or their own lax security. So far, the world of wearable tech has largely escaped such horrors, with security fears – the Chinese army banned smartwatches and other wearable tech in May, for example – hitting the headlines rather than actual leaks. But as wearable tech continues to rise, there will be a major data scare, in some form, around this new technology before 2016 is out. And it will be fascinating to see the result. Because wearable technology – more than almost any other – is incredibly personal. A data leak from your wearable, then, might seem even more invasive than someone hacking your email.
- Smart belts / rings / whatever
Samsung recently announced plans for WELT, its first smart belt, capable of recording the user’s waist size, eating habits and the number of steps taken, as well as time spent sitting down. The result was general disbelief among the public at large. But it shouldn’t have been: if the last few years have taught us anything, it is that if it is at all possible to make something smart, then someone, somewhere will have already done it (see the ikettle, the smart toaster etc). That doesn’t necessarily mean these new smart products will be a success or even particularly useful. But prepare yourself, nevertheless, for more and more of your clothing and accessories to be available in smart mode over the next 12 months.
- Wearables for your pet
Similarly, don’t expect wearable technology to be limited to homo sapiens in 2016: if pets can have their own psychologists, breakfast cereals and hotels, then wearable pet devices are the next logical step, monitoring everything from Fido’s level of activity to whether he’s had enough water that morning. 2015 already saw a few wearable devices for pets hit the market, including Whistle, a “Fitbit for dogs”. But this will be just the tip of the iceberg, as pets get pampered in whole new, smart ways in 2016.
- A use case for smartwatches will emerge
If there is one key question still to be answered around most wearable tech it is what is it really for? OK, with fitness trackers the answer is pretty obvious. But could you sum up in one neat sentence what the point of a smartwatch is, if your grandmother were to ask? This might sound like a damning criticism but it’s not: sometimes the actual uses of technology only become clear when people start employing them en masse. And often – as was the case with the unexpected mass success of the text message – the general public will use technology in ways that its creators never expected. This is what will happen with the smartwatch in 2016: as more and more people start to use these devices, some facet of the smartwatch will emerge that proves incredibly useful for the world at large. This, then, will finally provide the answer of what the smartwatch is really for. It could be mobile payment. It could be for checking into your flight. It could be for security. Or it could be for something that we haven’t even dreamed of yet.
- Gaming for wearables will go mainstream
Take a look around you. Someone will, I’m prepared to bet, be playing a game on their mobile. So successful has gaming been on smartphones, in fact, that it has created its own multibillion dollar industry of casual / mobile gaming, making household names of the Angry Birds on the way. For wearable and other smart devices, however, gaming has yet to really take off and it would be a struggle to name even one successful game for the smartwatch. This will change in 2016, when someone works out – or possibly even stumbles upon – the right gaming combination that works on a wearable. It might be a location-based game that makes use of the fact that you have a smart device strapped to your wrist. Or it might come right out of the leftfield…
- Look out for autonomous tech
Autonomous tech looks set to be one of the buzz words of 2016. Autonomous devices are, as Onstream CEO Craig Macy explains here, devices that are “aware of their environment, their state, and incoming data and that have the ability to learn and make decisions on their own”. Macy explains that by 2020 some 50bn devices will be connected to the internet – far too many to manage through human manipulation or stimulus-response commands – creating the necessity for devices to operate autonomously. “And all the signs point to 2016 being the tipping point for the emergence of the Age of Autonomy,” he concludes.