This Week in Wearables

Baby Wear and Running Gear


Is there a market for smart devices for infants, or for fashion connectables from major IT companies? It’s been another busy week for wearables.

CCS Insight analyst George Jijiashvili recently wrote a blog about the growing number of wearables designed for children (see Smartwatches for Kids). These big, colourful, plastic-bound gadgets look playful but are tech-rich. Some are made by established toy companies, others come from crowd-sourced start-ups and several are marketed in partnership with major operators highlighting potential opportunities for service providers. There have been several iterations of wireless devices designed for small children over the past 10 years, but none have found the formula for success.

The Sproutling Baby Monitor is a small device that attaches to a baby’s ankle and feeds information on heart rate, skin temperature, room temperature and ambient sound levels to parents’ phones. Developers say that the wearable is able to predict sleep patterns and can warn parents when their baby will wake up and in what mood, and claim that the device learns about the infant over time. Sproutling wants to be to baby monitors what Nest is to thermostats. Will there be a market for high-tech baby wear? It could be the start of something big, but new parents could certainly be concerned about strapping an electronic device to their child. This will be a battle between different anxieties.

This week, HP announced plans to enter the fashion smartwatch business with partners Michael Bastian and luxury e-goods seller Gilt. This is surprising given its enterprise legacy, but positive smartwatch forecasts have clearly caught the company’s eye. Even odder than HP’s entry into wearables is its rumoured choice of a proprietary platform over Android Wear. A growing number of impressive apps are already available for smartwatches based on Android Wear, meaning that the decision to adopt a proprietary solution only risks the device’s success. Details are still limited, but the firm must know it faces challenges as it moves into wearables given HP’s rather poor track record in the mobile space. We recognise the temptation to jump on this bandwagon but question whether enterprise-centric IT brands can strike a chord with consumers.

The wearable of the week for me is Timex’s Ironman One GPS+. This self-contained watch is a real Internet of things device, using AT&T’s network for connectivity (with one year of service included in the cost of the device). Timex has worked with Qualcomm for the components, including the low-power Mirasol display. The Ironman One GPS+ comes with 4GB of storage, can be used as a music player via a Bluetooth headset, offers live GPS tracking and can connect to popular social networking services. At $400, this will be for dedicated runners. It’s not surprising to see watchmakers enter further into the smartwatch segment, and we expect similar devices from competing companies like Garmin and Polar.

A lot of energy is going into the wearables market, and its big numbers are attracting an eclectic set of competitors from IT companies to toy makers. However, only a handful will succeed with hit products. The race is on.