CES 2015: time to make the wearable future a reality

It is the first day of CES, the gadget industry's annual hoop-la in Las Vegas, and observers might be forgiven their sense of deja-vu.

Intel: the Curie cheap could mean button-sized wearables
Intel: the Curie cheap could mean button-sized wearables

The big tech companies again promised a future filled with drones, wearable technology and connected devices, all of which were emerging themes for CES last year….and the year before that.

For marketers, the promise of the always-connected consumer is both alluring and challenging. Some believe that the internet of things, a catch-all term for the idea that everyday objects can be always online and communicating, will be as fundamental a shift to the discipline as the web itself. Brands will be able to access huge swathes of data on how consumers use their devices and how they behave, which could impact everything from pricing to really insight-driven campaigns.

But that consumer has been a disappointingly long time coming. Users are still not convinced by wearable technology, since gadgets are often clunky and offer little functionality without the help of a smartphone.

A fragmented vision

As CCS Insight analyst Martin Garner notes: "The whole arena continues to expand, but a grand vision remains elusive. The market's being held back by immature products, fragmented standards and ill-defined ideas about how we should be using connected things." 

CES 2015 then, should be the year that tech companies take the emerging trends of the internet of things and the quantified self, and try to make them stick.

Amid the ultra high-definition TV screens and £949 portable music players are small, promising glimpses of the future. Intel, a genuine pioneer in wearable hardware, announced the Curie at CES 2015, a wearable computer the size of a jacket button.

That could mean smaller, more attractive wearables that have the computing oomph to do something useful. Intel also showed off the Nixie, a wearable, selfie-taking drone that runs on the Intel Edison chip, launched at CES 2014.

Meanwhile, Samsung CEO BK Yoon announced a plan to invest more than $100m in developers and tech companies working on the internet of things. The company also called for "openness", stating the concept wil fail unless tech firms collaborate more.

It is unlikely that consumers will change their mind en masse about wearables, or everyday objects that can track them. Analysts at CES this year pointed to other barriers to adoption, such as security. 

For marketers, that means keeping an eye on the detail of how the internet of things will develop while, perhaps, ignoring some of the more unlikely inventions from CES 2015 -  like these battery-powered roller skates.

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