People 'n' Issues

Where wearable is headed

October 27th, 2015
With wearable device technology maturing rapidly and gaining consumer traction, the race is on between manufacturers to capture market share in this new product category, writes CHARLENE MUNILALL, GM for the Huawei Consumer Business Group.

The term ‘product category’ is misleading, however, and the brands that are able to grasp this are the ones that will win this race. The term is misleading because wearable technology is the sum of many parts that have to work together in a co-ordinated, cohesive manner.

A wearable device is but one of these many parts – an important part, obviously – and brands unable to leverage the other component parts in the equation will be relegated to the minor leagues.

These other components include the smartphone that drives the wearable technology, the network infrastructure that carries the data, the value-added services that elevate the wearable device beyond a luxury to a necessity, and the innovation that encapsulates all these different elements.

In essence, this is a question of convergence.

Convergence is a subject that has been at the forefront of the enterprise market for some time and the benefits of an ecosystem designed to simplify enterprise IT will soon be seen the hallmark of consumer wearable technology.

In layman’s terms this would be termed a ‘smart life’ or ‘digital lifestyle’, and wearables will undeniably be at the centre of this evolution.

We are already seeing many examples of this vision of a smart, connected world. Devices ranging from intelligent home management systems, smart televisions and devices that are fully integrated and accessible from a mobile device are but some of the examples.

And wearable technology is the obvious candidate to pull together these various systems and services. This is largely because of the convenience factor that makes this technology so compelling, but equally the increasing integration and functionality built into these devices.

Local critics of wearables often point to these utopian views on the future of the technological possibilities by pointing to the undeniable differences in need across a continent such as Africa.

There is certainly merit to the argument, unless one acknowledges that wearable technology’s primary innovation is to address a need and introduce convenience.

In Africa those needs are definitely different from a consumer sitting in New York or London. But they are driven by the need to be digitally, socially and financially included. And wearable technology certainly has a role to play in offering this to African consumers.

The manner in which Africa has leapfrogged other technologies since the introduction of mobile telephony, it is not difficult to acknowledge that wearables hold the same potential for new and exciting innovations to be rapidly adopted and become part of everyday life.

Huawei has adopted a strategy of trialling new innovations on the continent as it is the perfect test bed for consumer adoption.

There is definitely no lack of will in Africa to adopt technology that can contribute to a smart life. There might currently be infrastructure, network coverage and disposable income challenges, but these are slowly dissipating while building an enormous market hungry for technology.

The need to find practical solutions to local needs, including an attractive price point, has also been embraced by Huawei as a challenge to develop products that are relevant and affordable. With Africa’s middle class growing, an exciting opportunity exists to walk the journey with users who see the benefits of technology and will be able and willing to upgrade as their needs grow.

Huawei is therefore taking a long term and holistic view on the potential and future of wearable technology. This is driven by the company philosophy as well as realisation that the benefits will be realised over the long haul.

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