Imagine jogging along your favorite trail when suddenly you feel a shortness of breath and a painful squeeze in your chest. You stop… and with a flick of a finger, you instantly notify emergency responders of your situation and your location. At the same time, the notification alerts your doctor of the incident and sends your vital statistics. What enables all of this information to be gathered and transported to the right place is the combination of sensors and connectivity provided by the devices that make up the wearable Internet of Thing.
This scenario may not seem far-fetched considering the explosive growth of Internet-‐enabled devices worn on the body. Whether strapped to your wrist, attached to your eyewear, or embedded under your clothes, developers are building applications that monitor body systems through sensors and pull notifications, and alert users to important changes through push notifications.
The popularity of smartphones certainly fueled the growth of wearable devices. The iconic iPhone and various Android devices provide a constant connection to the Internet that mobile developers know how to tether or synchronize with associated wearables.
Unlike Internet developments in homes and businesses, wearables represent suc a fundamental change to our lives that Sandro Olivieri, a Senior Manager at AT&T’s Foundry, calls developing for the wearable marketplace the “Internet of Me.” “Our research has found that users don’t really care that their identity lives beyond their own device and more than likely that it lives in the cloud,” says Olivieri. “If there is a center of the Internet -‐ whether this is in a car, at the office or at home -‐ they are comfortable using their primary device and interacting with the network.” Most people currently consider their smartphone the primary device, but it remains to be seen what the “main access point” to “Internet of Me” will be given all these new points of connection.
Internet-‐enabled wearable gear was high on many people’s holiday gift list this past year, with an estimated 35 million wearables in use by the end of 2014, according to researchers at CCS Insight. This represents a 180 percent increase in wearable IoT device shipments in only three years. And many of the new designs can run independently of a smartphone.
The wearable device market can be segmented into seven sections, according to ABI Research’s latest report: wearable cameras, smart clothing, smart glasses, health care,sport and activity trackers, wearable 3D motion trackers and smartphone-compatible watches.
The opportunity for developers is to take what they know about mobile technology and apply it to emerging wearable products for a public that
has already started to see the future and benefits of wearable applications.
“Anybody involved in the early days of mobile remembers that you had to do it yourself,” says Matt Powers, Chief Technology Officer with Applico. “None of the applications or connector protocols were built for you. Now there are tools that make it easier. Developers are well equipped for IoT work that is more at the application level and what is great is that the same mobile development principles apply to IoT.”
Powers suggests that developers look for ways to minimize the amount of button clicks and maximize the use of glance-‐able displays. If you make an app or hardware design too difficult, users will quickly move on from your design to another one that is less confusing, he notes.
. In 2014, the Application Developers Alliance and its Emerging Technologies Working Group began identifying five areas influenced by IoT to give developers insight into creating a robust ecosystem. This whitepaper serves as an exploration of IoT by looking at its current state in wearable devices, best practices for creating apps, and new opportunities to explore. Other investigations cover automotive, manufacturing, home and retail.
From Dick Tracy’s wrist radio to the current wave of Android watches, the idea of connected wearable technology has fascinated developers for generations. Real wearable technology has been around since the early 60s, from the early days of MIT math professor’s “Beat the Dealer” device to Keith Taft’s “George” blackjack beater shoe technology. Modern interfaces include the Fitbit health monitor, Pebble smartwatch, and Google Glass. These innovations inspire new ways of thinking about IoT for the body.
Developers have numerous resources at their fingertips to learn the ins and outs of wearable technology. Artyom Astafurov, Managing Partner and head of the IoT practice at software development firm DataArt, notes that his company, like many others, supplies APIs, tutorials, videos, and physical meetups to help developers with design.
“Barriers to entry for wearable developers are still pretty high,” says Astafurov. “Putting together a prototype, testing that prototype and moving it into production involves quite a bit of discipline. . It also includes embedded development, firmware and electric wiring – however, combining all of these disciplines can be difficult at times. In some cases, a proxy API can be provided though that allows developers to test the system without the worry of overloading their own systems.”
Others disagree and feel that entry into wearable technology is exploding due to increased funding and available tools. Matthew Wong, a Research and Data Analyst at CB insights stated, “Venture capitalists want to have Quantified Self in their portfolios. We’re Seeing significant investment.”
“The barriers to entry are very low for developers, with free or low cost tools and developer kits generally available. The greatest challenge is to go beyond creating something that simply looks neat or cool, but that also that adds genuine value. For example, bringing Evernote checklists to your wrist, and being able to check items off on both Android Wear and the Pebble is simple but incredibly useful when you are out and about,” says Damian Mehers, Senior Software Engineer at Evernote.
Google’s Android has captured early success with its Wear series of APIs. Apple is also looking to dominate with its HomeKit protocols. The much anticipated Apple Watch, projected to debut in 2015, is expected to propel the company into more mainstream IoT-‐enabled markets.
Samsung’s plans for IoT wearables are reaching further than the Android operating system. The company announced in 2013 its own Linux-‐based operating system for smaller devices called Tizen. From powering smart cameras to smartwatches and eventually smartphones, the OS includes, among other things, a telephony stack, Smack -‐ an HTML5 sandbox for apps,ConnMann as its network manager, and Zypp package manager.
“There are hundreds of ways to do the same thing – so we’re in a bit of a primordial soup to build something meaningful,” Astafurov says.
TRENDY AND TOPICAL
Wearable fitness devices are expected to generate the most mass consumer adoption in 2015, with 22 percent of consumers already owning or planning to make a purchase next year, according to a survey of more than 2,000 North American consumers by Acquity Group, part of Accenture Interactive.
The study surveyed future purchasing trends and attitudes about the digital connection of physical, identifiable devices to the Internet where the data and devices communicate in an intelligent fashion. Some 59 percent of
Generation X consumers (ages 26-‐35) said they plan to adopt wearable fitness technology in the next five years, compared to 47 percent of Millennials (ages 18-‐25).
Of the men surveyed, 53 percent said they plan to purchase wearable technology in the next five years, compared to 45 percent of women.
However, when it comes to wearable fitness devices, women are slightly more likely to have already adopted them than men (8 percent compared to 7 percent).
Smart clothing and heads-‐up displays are expected to see the least overall adoption, with only 3 percent projected to be adopted in the next year, and 14 and 16 percent in the next five years.
“IoT is a convergence of trends, security, and user experiences,” says Artyom Astafurov of DataArt. “I believe there will be faster adoption for non-‐critical applications, mostly for consumer use.”
HOW WILL IoT WORK ON THE BODY?
Similar to other IoT interfaces, wearables are based on three key layers. First are the electronics placed closest to the body that monitor elements such as temperature, movement, and pulse. Battery life tends to be an issue in this layer, as these interfaces need to be as small as possible.
The second is the connectivity and control ayer. Smartphones have initially played this role but the strength of watches and inclusion of wireless radios may shift the center of the mobile hub from your smartphone to your wrist.
“Wearable devices are a lot about capturing and displaying information. But the way to interact with those devices will make the real acceptance and differences,” says Denis Manceau, Director of Global Product Management at MyScript. “In that respect, as much natural and gesture-‐centric interface as possible should be designed. It is all about digitalizing real work so people are expecting to interact with devices naturally. The learning curve should be set of its minimum.
For instance, Manceau notes that text input or search is difficult on a wearable due to the size or form factor of the device since a keyboard cannot be present. With handwriting recognition based on superimposed characters, users can enter text, a command or a search query on limited surface, such as a watch, with minimal attention.
“The watch can even be used for pushing command to your eyeglasses,” Manceau says. “The user experience will be similar to the one in the car already equipped with handwriting recognition. Your main attention is still on what happens in your field of view and not on the input device.” (Watch an interview with MyScript’s CEO Paddy Padmanabhan for more insights on IoT integration).
The Bluetooth low energy protocol has become the most popular way to connect a wearable device to a smartphone or home router with network access. This enables devices to operate for months or years on a single button cell, something that other wireless standards (802.11, LTE) cannot currently offer. Additionally BLE has become the de-‐facto standard for low power higher bandwidth communications with a phone.
Finally there is the cloud layer, where the device supplies and reads data specific to the use case. Developers should always consider how wearables can make this data actionable. It’s great that things like Fitbit record data about someone, but wearables will truly empower consumers when they deliver outputs that will improve the user’s quality of life. So far the applications and platforms in the market have not made this connection, which is possibly why after six months, more than 75 percent of people have stopped using their wearable device.