Part One //  Wearables: So Much Hype, So Much Meh, So Much Matters

Part One // Wearables: So Much Hype, So Much Meh, So Much Matters

This is part 1 of 4 in a series about wearable tech, written by our founder and wearables expert Liza Kindred, and was originally published in The Internet of Things Quarterly (get your copy here.) 

The hype around wearables and other connected devices is huge–and growing to the point where we have to tune it out to be able to think critically. When we look around us at what’s actually being made (and even more specifically, at what’s being worn), we see a whole lot of one-feature wonders, a pile of bracelets and watches, and a whole bunch of ugly, unwearable wearables. There is, to turn a phrase, so much meh.

Yet, this stuff really matters. There are very high stakes here, not just aesthetics or incremental improvements to our already relatively easy lives, but much bigger, more important issues as well: our health and the health of our loved ones; the ways we communicate and connect; the ways we shop, consume media, and socialize; and our very identities. Our challenge is cut through the hype and the meh, and to build for what matters.

The Hype

You’ve heard it–the chorus of voices proclaiming the enormous potential market for Wearables and connected devices. When you listen closely, the chorus becomes an off-key cacophony. There seems to be an unspoken competition between analysts and the press to see who can predict the largest market without being labeled insane (or worse, ignored).

Forrester says: 20% of US adults already have an IoT device!

There have been more connected devices than humans since 2008!, Patrick Turner calls out.

Demand quadrupled last year from the year before!, hollers WGSN.

We’ll have 9 Billion connected devices by 2018! yelps BI Intelligence.

50 Billion devices by 2020! Cisco calls out.

But think of the money! It will be a $50 billion market in 3-5 years!, yells Credit Suisse.

No, hundreds of billions in revenue!, shouts Business Spectator, grabbing the crown for a few fleeting moments.

Listen to nearly anyone talking, and you already know that while some of the predictions may end up being accurate, the chorus as a whole has gotten so loud that it’s become difficult to make out the forest for the clamoring trees. And even as the hype builds, we haven’t as of yet even been able to come up with a definition of what the market even is.

What is Wearable Tech, Really?

Wearable tech, or wearables, if you prefer, are a part of the internet of things. But much the same way that we can’t precisely define where the “mobile web” part of the web starts and stops, we also don’t know where the “wearable” kinds of connected devices begin and end.

We can say, as a generalization, that wearables are computing devices worn around, on, or in our bodies. On the outside, it’s clothing and accessories: umbrellas, belts, t-shirts, bags, and yes: those ubiquitous watches and bracelets. Devices such as Motorola’s sensor tattoo, with its nearly 20 sensors, are worn directly on the body itself. And taking one step further into sci-fi land, we see injectible, ingestible, and implantable devices, such as the smart pill from Proteus and the ID pill from Motorola.

In the next installments, we’ll look at the meh, what matters, and what we should really be asking ourselves. 


Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave.  Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables.