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The Future of Wearable Technology: Smaller, Cheaper, Faster, and Truly Personal Computing

For the past few years, industry pundits have been predicting the death of the personal computer. I look at it a bit differently—the personal computer is not dying, but is becoming even more personal. It is now something you’re going to wear—in your clothing, jewelry, shoes, glasses, watches, and even on your skin.

The burgeoning field of wearable technology is hitting the mainstream, illustrated by a new ad campaign from Samsung that employs Dick Tracy, Captain Kirk, and a lineup of other comic and science fiction characters to introduce the new Galaxy Gear smartwatch. In a recent blog, my colleague Joseph Bradley described the wide range of “wearables” that are now available—and sure to be a hot topic at the Internet of Things World Forum in Barcelona next week.

I recently wrote about how wearable technology is helping drive the Internet of Everything (IoE)—and changing the way we live—by connecting people in new and different ways. Today, I’d like to go a little deeper, and explore some of the ways that today’s wearable technology might evolve.

One of the principles of this evolution is that technology is getting smaller, faster, cheaper, and more powerful every day. In fact, in terms of physical size, computing technology is becoming 100 times smaller each decade. The computing power of the ENIAC computer that filled a whole room back in 1956 now fits inside the tiny chip of a “musical greeting card” that you can buy for $4 at your local store. The smartphone in your pocket is many times more powerful than the PCs of just a decade ago. And now, all the capabilities of your smartphone are being condensed into smartwatches, which can make phone calls, connect to the Internet, take pictures, and do just about anything else your phone or tablet can do.

But even this miniaturization of technology is dwarfed by the power that is available when you connect to the cloud. One really exciting example is SIGMO—a language translator that you can clip to your shirt, or wear on your wrist. It costs about $50, and when connected to the cloud can provide real-time voice translation of 25 languages. Sigmo blew past its fund-raising goal of $15,000 on the crowd-funding site Indiegogo.com to almost a quarter-million dollars, illustrating the demand for these types of gadgets.

Figure 1.  Sigmo voice translator provides real-time cloud-based translation services for 25 languages, and learns as you use it.

voice translator

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The Internet of Everything and the Future of Wearable Technology: Three Ways to Get it Right

One of the most visible forms of the Internet of Everything (IoE), at least from a consumer’s perspective, is the advent of wearables, a term for wearable computing devices. The full range of this new form factor for mobile devices is very wide and I would like to define wearables as electronic systems located on the body that mediate their user and their environment. From activity trackers like FitBit and Up by JawBone and other quantified self applications, to more advanced information devices like Google Glass and Samsung Smartgear, these first generation devices are always on and always connected. Next generation devices will also be contextual and intelligent thanks to the Internet of Everything’s convergence of people, devices, data and the web.

Computing devices have moved from our desktop to our lap, to our pocket and now onto our body. Technology has never been this personal, however, we are far from the wearables endgame. For wearables to truly become a useful addition to our already technology-filled lives, we need to get back to the basics. Here’s a brief look at three ways we can evolve wearables by thinking about the technology itself, our interaction with these devices and the value they should offer.

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Beyond Things: The Internet of Everything Takes Connections to the Power of Four

Over the last year, I (and many of my colleagues) have spent a lot of time talking about the Internet of Everything (IoE) and how it’s transforming our world. I thought, however, it would be good to pause in this blog and clarify what we mean by the “Internet of Everything” in just a little more detail. I’ve mentioned in the past that IoE consists of four “pillars”: people, process, data and things, but let’s take a closer look.

Many people are familiar with the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT). Not only does it have its own Wikipedia article, but last month the Internet of Things was added to the Oxford dictionary, which defines it as “a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data.” So it’s not surprising that people might be confused when we start talking about the Internet of Everything. What’s the difference? Is IoE simply a rebranding of IoT?

The fact is, the Internet of Things is just one of four dimensions — people, process, data, and things — we talk about in the Internet of Everything. If we take a closer look at each of these dimensions, and how they work together, we’ll begin to see the transformative value of IoE.

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