What does the future of wearable tech look like?
At the 2013 DEMO conference in Santa Clara, California, an expert panel, which included Fitbit CEO James Park and Kleiner Perkins partner Megan Quinn, tried to answer just that and gave an insider's point of view on this wildly popular and fast-growing market.
A bit more on the panelists: Quinn works with the Glass Collective, an investment syndicate created by Kleiner Perkins, Andreessen Horowitz, and Google Ventures to fund early-stage companies building apps for Google Glass. And Park’s 6-year-old company Fitbit, which has a total $66 million in funding, creates wearable devices for users to track fitness and activity.
Here are the highlights of their conversation.
A New Kind of Checklist
When it comes to Google Glass, Quinn said that the device holds great potential for checklists. Not the type you bring to the grocery store, but, say, the kind that doctors use to ensure that they don’t unintentionally infect a patient during surgery.
“Google to date has been focused really on the consumer applications associated with Glass and how to bring that mainstream,” Quinn said. “What we have interestingly seen on the investing side, across the three firms, is a lot more attention from the enterprise.”
Quinn said that in addition to the medical profession, Glass is well suited for any field that uses safety checklists, such as deep-sea drilling for example.
Recommendations Will Be Better
Quinn also had some predictions about fitness trackers and wearable technology that is worn close to the human skin. The more consumers wear the device, and the more technologically advanced the trackers become, the more data there is to be analyzed.
“Because this is so close to the skin and it will always be on you, as the sensors evolve and are able to pick up things, moisture for example. The data is just going to be so much more substantive that what you have alone on a smartphone,” Quinn said.
She said the next capability she is looking forward to is a recommendation from fitness trackers. She imagined that the recommendations won’t be arbitrary, but instead based on data from a cohort of other users who have similar workout patterns.
However, Practicality Comes First
Not all companies are concerned with the next big thing. The much-less-chatty Park did say despite the excitement around the future of wearable tech, entrepreneurs in the space need to be first and foremost concerned with what people will be excited to wear today.
“What’s practical at this particular moment in time?” Park mused. “That’s actually for us the bigger challenge.”