The wearable industry is still in its infancy. Most of the first-mover vendors are banking on consumers to want to use a band, glasses, camera or piece of jewelry that satisfies very specific use cases. You might ask yourself why these companies are not trying to be all things to all people. The short answer is that while it is really easy to imagine what we want to do with wearables, there are three factors that we need to balance in order to make them useful and accessible.
Making a wearable into a repeatable process requires a lot of ingenuity on the part of the guys who dream them up. It is one thing to make a prototype, it’s another to make one that can be mass produced. They need to make sure that parts are readily available, durable and fit into the manufacturing process, a process that has a predictable result.
2. Form Factor
To say that a devices needs to be sleek and light is to assume that people don’t want to feel it on their body. More importantly, the devices needs to fit with the desired use case. Companies like XOEye can get away with more girth in their product because it’s a pair of augmented safety goggles.
The bands we wear to track heart rate from Nike Fuel Band to MIO shouldn’t interrupt the workout. I like MIO’s rubber band because it can be drawn closest to the skin as opposed to Nike’s that comes in 3 sizes and isn’t particularly adjustable, making it for some wrists a bit slippery during a workout. The construction needs to be durable and weather the elements that to which it's susceptible. The Recon Snow needs to stand up to sub zero temperatures and ass-over-teakettle yard-sales. I wore my Fuelband to the Jersey Shore. I think it got some salt or sand in the works because it died. I expected it to be more tolerant of that sort of environment, but they make no claims of being waterproof or even water-resistant.
3. Battery Life
Power management is perhaps the biggest challenge for wearables. Bluetooth is widely used to communicate because it allows a wearable to transfer data from the device without using much battery life. This means the battery can be smaller and that form factors can be smaller. The more a device needs to do, the more energy it needs. Software developers like Skyhook optimize algorithms to use less battery power. We consider the cost of making a call to the life of the battery within the product and its ability to increase the satisfaction of the user.
Batteries are small and for most purposes, need to be active for 24 hours before charging again. Ideally, a backup can be charging and hot swapped, but some devices only have internal batteries because changing tiny batteries and maintaining the form factor and practical user experience is painful.
The functionality enabled by Skyhook’s services comes with minimal battery drain. Our products provide precise location for devices and use a number of battery conscious techniques to ensure frictionless user experiences.