Can Apple’s ‘iWatch’ catalyze wearable tech growth?

If industry murmurings over recent weeks are anything to go by, it looks as though Apple’s much touted ‘iWatch’ could see the light of day sooner than we might have thought. While such wearable devices are hardly a brand new concept, Apple’s entry into the space could act as a catalyst to help finally push this product category into the mainstream.

Although Samsung’s Galaxy Gear may have been met with a resounding ‘meh’ on its launch last September, and Nike seem to be cutting their losses with their Fuel Band (although this was always a fairly niche fitness product anyway), it is important not to underestimate the ability of the Cupertino powerhouse to impact the success of an early stage product category. I have always believed that if the iPhone 5 had shipped with NFC as was predicted by many at the time, NFC cardless smartphone payments would be the norm today. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and NFC has still not reached its full potential.

While I remain sceptical of the consumer utility of Google Glass (would you really wear a Glass headset all day for the handful of instances that it might come in handy?), I feel that smart watches offer much greater value to the common user. If someone out there can distil the essence of your smartphone into a standalone device that means you don’t have to carry around your phone everywhere you go, it could be huge.

It is also encouraging to see some companies out there already doing some really cool things with wearable tech in the real world. Take the Ushuaïa Beach Hotel and the Hard Rock Hotel in Ibiza for example. Both have recently introduced a system of smart wristbands that allow guests to abandon their room key cards and credit cards, and avail of a whole host of other hotel services with the swipe of their wrist.

One thing is for sure, this is a space with some serious opportunity for growth and innovation. Your move Apple.

iWatch patent 2

Some of Apple’s smart watch patent designs: image courtesy of Fast Company