The first Bluetooth headset was sold in 2000. Nearly a decade and a half later, 2014 was declared “the year of the wearable” by tech publications and industry enthusiasts. 2014, after all, was when tech fans were first informed about the pending arrival of what is now the most famous wearable in the world – the Apple Watch.
But if 2014 was the year of the wearable, you wouldn’t have known it if you were a guest at that year’s Consumer Electronic Show. The 2014 CES was dominated not by Apple Watch anticipation, but unbridled excitement over the Internet of Things (IoT).
Now in 2015, it is hard to talk about one without talking about the other. Wearables and IoT are on a collision course, and the merger is already triggering an entirely new technological revolution: the Internet of Me.
Wearables: Following the Path of the Smartphone
The Internet of Things refers to the widespread usage of wifi to animate and connect “dumb” machines and objects, such as toothbrushes to make them “smart.” Once enlightened, these smart devices can communicate not only with each other, but with their human masters.
A smart toothbrush gathers data about your brushing habits and sends it directly to your dentist to analyze before your next visit. IoT, which has been creeping forward for years, is now poised for mainstream saturation before the end of the decade. But the introduction of wearables is speeding up - and altering - the onset of IoT.
Wearables are evolving along a path similar to the one taken by smartphones. Smartphones didn’t truly hit their stride until Apple launched the App Store, which enabled users to integrate their entire digital lives - from their daily planner to GoogleDrive to their ecommerce landing pages to their iTunes music library - all in one place.
Like pre-App Store smartphones, wearables are just another ecosystem of devices. Wearables can’t revolutionize the way humans interact with technology until they are stitched together with the other crucial components of our digital lives. The arrival of IoT is providing just that stitching.
Ford Cars, Android Wear and Connected Wearables
Ford is leading the charge to integrate IoT with the wearables that people access while they are driving. If a diabetic driver has a medical bracelet or watch, it could relay information about the driver’s blood-glucose level to the car’s on-board multimedia system, which could then relay that information to physicians or family members, if need be. If a baby were sleeping in the back, a wearable could monitor its vitals and relay the information to the vehicle, to the parents’ wearables, or both.
One The Internet of YOU: When Wearable Tech and the Internet of Things Collide describes the phenomenon of IoT plus wearables - The Internet of You - as “having the potential to build our technology so that it works for us, not the other way around.” One example is Android Wear, which was built by Google. Google recently purchased Nest, which is a collection of smart household devices. When Android Wear connects to the Next thermostat, for example, the thermostat wouldn’t need to be programmed. Instead, Wear could “tell” the thermostat that the wearer is getting too warm or cool, and the thermostat could then adjust the temperature in the room.
The Internet of You combines the personalization of wearables with the ubiquity of the Internet of Things. Like smartphones, wearables unite the scattered elements of the user’s personal and digital life. If wearables existed in a vacuum, they would be another cool novelty gadget - a toy for people with disposable income. But with IoT acting as the glue that bonds wearables to all of the increasingly “smart” devices that surround us in our daily lives, wearables have the potential to rival - or replace - smartphones as the single most important devices we own. Just as IoT will affect the rise of wearables, wearables have the potential to act as the unifying force that bonds the billions of devices that will make up the Internet of Things.
Together, they are the Internet of You.
Nick Rojas is a business consultant and write who lives in Los Angeles and Chicago. He has consulted small and medium-sized enterprises for over twenty years. He has contributed articles to Visual.ly, Entrepreneur and TechCrunch. You can follow him on Twitter @NickARojas, or you can reach him at [email protected].