One small step for consumers, one giant leap for the 'Internet of things'
The time for talk is over. Wearable devices are likely to take off in 2014. At the 2014 International Consumer Electronics (CES) Show in Las Vegas in early January, as many as 300 companies exhibited wearables and related products.
These new devices take many shapes and forms. Google Glass is worn like spectacles, Nike's FuelBand SE fits around the wrist, and other products are similar to rings. This diversification points to a coming boom in wearable tech.
The concept of wearable computers has existed for more than 30 years. Today's wide variety of products is attributable to the miniaturization of sensors and other core components, as well as improvements in Internet connectivity.
Trends at CES indicate there are two types of wearable device likely to become popular: wristband-style products and health monitors.
The wristband tech generally works with other devices such as smartphones and tablets. The other type monitors users' bodies to promote health and improve fitness. Recently, Google unveiled a smart contact lens that measures blood-sugar levels and other data to help tackle diabetes.
The wristbands have yet to truly take off among consumers because the ways they work with other devices do not yet appeal to a broad customer base. The devices for health, however, look set to take the market by storm. By giving users useful information about their body, including data that was previously not monitored, these devices have gained traction. Easy-to-understand features and user-friendly interfaces have also helped.
Cars and other transportation systems, as well as pets, are likely to be sucked into the monitoring trend. It is possible that the vast majority of living things and objects that move could be connected to the network. Eventually, there may be an "Internet of things (IoT)" on which everything, including inanimate objects, is connected online.
Wearable devices for people are just the beginning. Attention will inevitably shift to attaching devices to other things. Further ahead, wearable devices may be as much a part of everyday life as cars or elevators.
Networking devices in such an era would go widely unnoticed. If an Internet of things is realized, all possible data would be gathered and sent into the cloud. The immense information could then be analyzed and fed back into the offline world. This will likely lead to a synthesis between the online and offline spheres.
The technology that links people to the Internet will need to advance. We will move beyond conventional computer operating methods -- using keyboards and touch-screen panels would be no longer needed. They are likely to be replaced by technologies that allow us to interact with the cyberspace in a more natural manner. Wearable devices are one small step on the path to a hyperconnected world.
Ken Kutaragi, known as "the father of PlayStation," is president of Cyber Ai Entertainment. After joining Sony in 1975, he became Sony Computer Entertainment president, Sony executive deputy president and director and SCE honorary chairman, and now serves on the boards of numerous companies. He will regularly contribute to INNOVASIAN, our column by tech visionaries.