A reality check on the connectivity of ‘things’

Are wearables really going to take off in a big way, or has the hype gotten out of control? Mark Samuels takes a look...

Mark Samuels

Everyone needs to pause for reflection. Wearable devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) might represent the next frontier for digital development. But, in terms of colonising core consumers, technology companies and retailers are still stuck at the periphery.

The hype for this nascent area has reached cacophonous levels. The recent 3.8 billion merger of Dixons and Carphone Warehouse, for example, was presented as a way for the newly merged entity to take advantage of the connectivity of things' during the next decade.

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An executive from Dixons Carphone was quizzed post-merger on television about the move. To prove his point, he pointed to his smart watch and demonstrated how he could check text messages and social updates.

The smartphone is a wearable device and isn't usually classed in the same category as the IoT, which is more commonly linked to connected fridges that will be able to tell you when they're out of milk.

But the Dixons Carphone executive didn't have a fridge from the future, so he had to rely on his smart watch. After seeing a demonstration, the reporter raised an obvious question: "Isn't that watch just offering the same things as the smartphone?"

Consultantcy firm Deloitte came to a similar conclusion in its 2014 technology trends report, suggesting many wearables - such as fitness bands and smart watches - will probably never become mainstream.

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The hope for greater consumer colonisation comes in the form of smart glasses, such as Google Glass. Deloitte suggests demand for smart glasses will surpass 100 million by 2020. But that is six years away.

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And while there is no doubt that many of the things we use every day will soon be connected to the internet, only a fool would try to predict which companies, devices and applications will dominate this nascent market in 10 years' time.

As my colleague CIO Connect CEO Nick Kirkland concluded in a recent blog: "Perhaps an equivalent to Steve Jobs is already working on the next revolution?"

Maybe Dixons Carphone is about to unleash such a genius? Or maybe - as with the rise of Google and Amazon during the first internet boom of the late 1990s - the genius will emerge from an entirely new location? Your guess is as good as mine.

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