Wearable technology - challenges and opportunitiesNews / TechnologyBy Viewpoints | October 24, 2013Share This article was originally published on Wearable technology is a consumer trend that has seemingly come out of nowhere in 2013.Hardly a week passes without one consumer electronics giant or another announcing plans for a smart watch or smart glass. Credit Suisse is bullish on the potential, predicting it will increase tenfold to as much as US$50 billion over the next three to five years.NB: This is an opinion from Kevin O'Sullivan, lead engineer at SITA Lab.In light of this, over the past six months our team at SITA Lab has done the earliest research into the use of wearable technology for the air transport industry.As might be expected we have learned a lot and we have some clear views on the limitations and potential.The first phase of our research was to assess the technological capabilities of the devices available now (Pebble Watch, Sony Watch and I’m Watch), or devices we have early access to (Google Glass and Vuzix M100). Now that we know the technical strengths and weaknesses, the next phase will be to identify what, if any, are the practical applications of wearable technology in our industry.Wearable Technology – hype or opportunity?A common criticism of wearable computing is that it is a solution seeking its problem. This is a valid criticism, in part because the technology is so new that we don’t know yet what to do with it, and in part because these devices are technically limited compared to contemporary smart phones.If it doesn’t replace the smart phone – and in its current incarnations, it does not - then, what is it for? Will we really carry a laptop, a tablet, a phone and a smart watch/glass?To realize the potential of wearable, there must be some improvements in the technology and it is reasonable to assume Moore’s Law will take care of this. But also, application developers must learn a new form factor, a new paradigm, a new set of human-computer interaction rules.That is what we at SITA Lab aim to do in the next phase of our wearable computing research. We will trial several use cases in the wild, find out what works and what doesn’t. Fail fast; fail often, as they say.We see the richest opportunities for using the technology among the industry’s roaming workforce. They need to be connected to enterprise data and they need their hands to be free."Hands free" is the killer aspect of wearable tech and smart glasses in particular. This is where the technology will take hold and this is what we will investigate. Aircraft turnaround, passenger services, task and event management, and underwing maintenance are all examples of what we will be looking at.A future of mass adoption?The first generation of wearable devices are limited in many ways (battery, screen size, camera), but for first generation devices, these are technical marvels –Google Glass in particular.Given the potential benefits and the desire of electronics giants to sell us something new, it is a safe bet to say that wearable computing will be part of the future. But the question is, will there be mass adoption or will it remain a niche application? Will it remain the Segway for the head, as someone so succinctly characterized Google Glass?Only the future will tell.NB: This is an opinion from Kevin O'Sullivan, lead engineer at SITA Lab.