Wearable computing technology has been with us for long time – but has been used more in the military and business enterprises, rather than the general public. Even a badge to pass building security is a form of wearable technology. With miniaturization of electronics and improvements in battery technology, manufacturers are starting to branch out and I think we are just starting to enjoy the fruits of their labor – wearables are about to grow into widespread adoption because they are something that can truly make of lives easier.
They consist of three components – sensors, displays and computing architecture – and up until now, have had symbiotic relationship with our smartphones. As more devices receive 3G/4G and Wi-Fi, in addition to Bluetooth, the smartwatch will truly become smart – and according to Timex executive Tom Essery and AT&T Mobility's new CEO Glenn Lurie, will no longer need a 'tethered' smartphone. It is at that point the sale of wearables will take-off – especially for activities where you may not want to take your smartphone – jogging, swimming, skiing, rock climbing, etc.
Last month, AT&T and Timex teamed up on the new Timex Ironman One GPS+ – designed as a runner's watch with its own connection to AT&T. Besides tracking your data, which can be uploaded, it also has messaging capabilities. AT&T will also be the exclusive provider of the new MICA (My Intelligent Communication Accessory) – a smart bracelet from Intel. AT&T is positioning themselves to be a leader in wearables field. Our source had an interview with Lurie and he said: "I believe the future of wearables will be stand alone, independent 4G devices that will have capabilities to connect to other devices. What problem are you trying to solve and what value are you bringing to the customer? You'll see wearables being built with voice, data, and apps that will use the network differently, and we'll monetize those in different ways."
AT&T is still trying to understand exactly what kind of effect wearables will have on data usage and what to charge – it may just use your bundled data in a Share wireless plan. He did say they were trying to keep it simple and their objective is to handle it as an "unconscious connectivity" where the user will never realize they are connecting to their data plan. He said that some wearables might only reach out for data once a day. They haven't mentioned the cost of the MICA watch, but the Timex watch will run $399 and includes one-year of free AT&T data, and after that it will run $40 a year for data and messaging, although they have not determined how much of an incremental cost would be added to your Share plan.
When asked what he thought about the exclusivity of devices on a carrier as they will also be the exclusive provider of the Filip 2 wearable smart locater with voice for kids. Lurie appears to like the idea and claims that we will see more of it on all networks, although he adds that he will "put [his] connected device team against anyone else's in the world."
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