Wearable Computers: The Evolution of the Industry
By Carolyn Strano

INTRODUCTION
TECHNOLOGY
Definition  History  Capabilities  Limitations
GROWTH OF THE MARKET
Applications  Impediments To Market Growth  Dominant Users  Potential Uses  Specific Examples In Use Today  Marketing Outreach Initiatives
THE DOMINANT CORPORATIONS
Profile Summaries of Key Players  Mergers and Partnerships
THE EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES/THE CORPORATIONS DEVELOPING THEM
Research and Development Activities  Corporate Interest and Investments Sponsors
FUTURE TECHNOLOGICAL TRENDS FOR THE SECTOR
Forecasts   Projected Interest/Market Appeal
SUMMARY/CONCLUSION
References
 
 
 
 

INTRODUCTION

This paper provides a summary report of the emerging technology of "Wearable computers". The report will include discussions about the technology, market growth, dominant corporate players, emerging technologies and the corporations developing them, and future technological trends. It will summarize the research findings for the evolution of this emerging industrial sector of the telecommunications and computer networks industry. Conclusions will be drawn based on the subjective analysis of the report findings.

TECHNOLOGY

Definition

Wearable computers are not clearly defined at this point in time in the industry. There is disagreement about whether wearable and ubiquitous computing is the same thing. The Gartner Group, a leading world authority on information technology, considers wearable computing to be a subset of ubiquitous computing. Ubiquitous computing is the embedding of computers in the world around us. The human body is considered to be the natural location for functions relating to mobile, personal communications and information management (i.e., messaging, calendaring, and contact information); whereas, environmental, ubiquitous computing is focused on situated activities (i.e. an office that senses when the occupant approaches and configures computer screens with the preferred configuration profile). (Gartner Group Research Note., 1997)

Steve Mann, a leading researcher in wearable computers, has authored several papers on the definition alone. According to Mr. Mann, "A wearable computer is a computer that is subsumed into the personal space of the user, controlled by the user, and has both operational and interactional constancy, i.e. is always on and always accessible." (Mann, S., 1998). He identifies six attributes for wearable computer as follows:

    1. unmonopolizing of the userís attention
    2. unrestrictive to the user
    3. observable by the user
    4. controllable by the user
    5. attentive to the environment
    6. communicative to others (Mann, S., 1998)
The industrial market typically uses a more generally accepted classical definition. (Gartner Group Analyst., Fenn, J. Personal Communication, 1999, Jul 27). "Wearable computers are light and compact belt-mounted PCs, typically offering speech input and a head-mounted or pocket-sized screen. Systems may also incorporate functions such as two-way video and global positioning." (Gartner Group Strategic Analysis Report, 1997)

History

Several innovations have helped pave the way for wearable computers. These date back to the first mention of eyeglasses in 1268 and the invention of the pocket watch in 1762. However the first actual wearable computer was invented by Ed Thorp and Claude Shannon in 1966 and was used to predict roulette wheels. That same year Sutherland created the first computer-based head-mounted (HMD) display and soon after that Bell Helicopter began experimenting with HMDís. (Rhodes, B., 1998). Wearable computers have come a long way since these early efforts. This year Stanford Universityís Wearable Computing Laboratory managed to fit all of the software required to drive the worldwide web server into a computer the size of a matchbox. (Houlder, V., 1999) This type of technology improvement has made it feasible to produce useful, unobtrusive wearable computers and technology companies are beginning to show an interest.

Capabilities

One has only to use her imagination to easily envision a world that is quite different from the one we know today; a world that is changed by the personalization of computers. In his book, "When Things Start To Think", Niel Gershenfeld discusses some of the work being done at MIT Media Laboratory which could have a drastic impact on the way we communicate and essentially redefine the organization of life and the characteristics of what it means to be human. He introduces the concept of a Personal Area Network (PAN) to connect parts of a body. PAN provides a means to get rid of the wires in a wearable computer. It merges the logical and physical components. This works on the same principle of breaking the spectrum into cells except that PAN shrinks the cells down to one body to transmit data through the body. (Gershenfeld, N., 1999) "The trick is to allow "wearable" electronic devices to exchange data by capacitively coupling modulated picoamperes currents through the body. A low frequency carrier (below 1 MHz) is used so very little energy is radiated outside the body itself, minimizing interference and remote eavesdropping. A PAN device electrostatically induces picamp currents into the body which is used as a "wet wire" to conduct the modulated currents." (PANís, 1996)

Although the above PAN concept has been prototyped and certainly stretches the mind to think about what could be, actual widely accepted capabilities today are much less developed. The basic package today consists of a Pentium 200 MHZ, 32 MB RAM, 2.1GB HD with a flat panel or head mounted display and a deluxe package would use a Pentium 233/266 MHz with a 128 MB RAM and 4.3 GB HD. This describes the mobile assistant (MA IV) systems currently supplied by Xybernaut, one of the leading corporations in wearable computers. It can be worn on the sleeve, forearm, belt or vest and the monitor/display can hitch to a headset. It responds to voice recognition or one-touch commands, providing wearable, wireless, hands free computing capability. These can be standalone computers or can be connected to a wireless network through an antenna attached to clothing such as a hat. They are powered by small battery packs. (Xybernaut Corporation, 1999)

Limitations

Wearable computers acquire all of the attributes and constraints of any wireless network. The gaps include limited bandwidth, seamless communication, and ubiquitous access. Other tough issues fall into four categories Ė technical, social, economical, and political. The technical issues involve protocols, mobility/disconnected operation, infrastructure maintenance, saturation and ubiquitous access. The social issues are primarily privacy and security. The economical issues are billing and commerce and the political issues involve access rights and spectrum ownership. (Boeing Wearable Computer Workshop, 1996)

The technology limitations associated specifically with wearable computers are primarily with the screen and with the means for controlling the computer. The head-mounted displays are still low resolution and the user may lose vision when moving about. There is not a seamless mechanism for inputting and outputting. (Gartner Group Analyst. Fenn, J. Personal Communication, 1999, July 27) Additionally there are limitations with the power supplies, heat dissipation, and bulkiness. Steve Mann experimented with the first class of Cyborgs this year at the University of Toronto. Students complained that the " Xyberbaut systems were not really all that wearable Ė at least, not comfortably for more than a few minutes at a time." The battery life was too short to allow online, extended use. Although the system supports a windows operating system, it remains cooler with a more efficient, less user friendly code. To gain wider acceptance, the cyborg outfit must become less cumbersome. (Mann, S., 1999)

GROWTH OF THE MARKET

Applications

The wearable computer promises to bring major improvements to a wide-range of applications including surveying, inspection, medical and insurance tasks. The defense department has identified several uses such as maintenance, telemaintenance, telemedicine, training, and logistical support. (General Dynamics Systems, 1999) The key will be incorporating these unique technological capabilities into the natural workflow in order to increase productivity, reduce cost, or in some way improve the effectiveness or efficiency of the business mission. "Telecommunications-based information technology offers the potential to assist an organization in accomplishing its goals and objectives. Whether or not this potential is realized depends on a thorough understanding of the business climate, of appropriate application of the technology, and of the particular organizationís strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats." (Vargo J. & Hunt R., 1996)

Impediments to Market Growth

In addition to the technical limitations noted previously, there are other risk factors that could impede the growth and acceptance of this technology. Although the cost is dropping, there is still a high cost to benefit ratio. It is considered to be a small market niche that is below the one- percent threshold of interest in manufacturing. (Gartner Group Analyst, Linden, A., Personal Conversation, 1999, July 19) Another concern is the social acceptance of the technology. It is not yet fashionable to be seen wearing this somewhat cumbersome piece of equipment. Human factorsí issues must be adequately addressed before this technology will be likely to reach wide acceptance. (Gartner Group Analyst, Fenn, J., Personal Conversation, 1999, July 27)

Dominant Users

The Gartner Group believes that "the early applications for wearable computing will be primarily industrial. By 2002, wearable computers will begin to appear for a more general audience, mainly focused on communications and personal information management (i.e., evolution of display phones, pagers and PDAs). Continuing research will be required to determine the appropriate applications, input/output modalities and privacy implications for these wearable systems." (Gartner Group Research Note, 1997.)

Potential Uses

The biggest potential seen by many wearable computing researchers is in medicine. Small, unobtrusive monitors could continually read health indicators from the body (e.g., heart rate, body heat and muscle stress) and relay them to a small receiver worn or carried on the body that, in turn, could transmit them to a physician or alert a monitoring service. Assistive technology is also a major theme. For example a camera worn by someone who communicates through sign language could pick up the gestures and translate the words, using neural networks, into synthesized speech. Another area being assessed is "affective" computing which involves detecting a userís moods and emotions by the computer, which then makes appropriate changes (e.g. responds with better help if confusion is detected). (Gartner Group Research Note, 1997).

Specific Examples in Use Today

I was able to find several instances of actual current day usage although most are still in the pilot or beta test stage. Following are a few such examples

In Ohio a registered nurse who suffers from dyslexia and attention deficit disorder is able to function as efficiently as his non-disabled counterparts by using a wearable computer. He is able to look up medical terms on his wearable computer without having to drag out huge reference documents. (Parker A., 1999)

Technicians use wearable computers to build complex wiring bundles on Boeing airplanes. Head-mounted displays track the technicians head movements and present schematic diagrams of where the technician is looking. (Stevens, T., 1999)

Students in Florida are gaining access to their school using a ring worn on their finger or as a necklace. The wearable computer, called the iButton grants them access to the school by opening electronic doors when the ring is pressed against special receptors on the doors. (Florida Students Test Wearable Computers, 1999).

In each of the above examples and other similar uses it was difficult to obtain an objective assessment of the user satisfaction with the products. Most of the news items had more than a hint of supplier bias and indicated that the user could not be happier with the new capabilities. However these are all pilot programs and it is important to realize that most new technologies require an adjustment period before users feel comfortable with the new paradigm. There are many factors that affect the adaptability of the user to the new technology, including ease of use of the system, user experience with similar technologies and so forth. The scope of this paper will not cover an in depth assessment of the relative success of the uses presented here; rather it is intended to indicate that there are several instances of actual use currently in existence.

Marketing Outreach Initiatives

The major suppliers of wearable computers have promoted their products through numerous avenues. I found several recent news releases highlighting these activities. Following are a few such examples.

Xybernaut provided wearable computers and technical support to the Mastodon Art/Science Regional Fair in Missouri, the largest art and science fair in the United States. The wearable computer was used to enroll the estimated 3,000 students who participate in the fair. (Support to Mastodon Art/Science Fair, 1999).

Rutgers University selected Xybernaut Corporation for a recent "Warfighter Preparedness" research demonstration. The presentation was made before select members of Congress and the Defense Department. (Xybernaut Wearable Computer Selected, 1999)

Conferences, trade shows, research grants, magazines, news releases are all showing an increased interest in wearable computers. It is a fascinating area of technology that captures the interest of the news media. Any advancement is sure to receive more than adequate coverage. I have selected only a few examples from several dozen that I was able to find in a less than comprehensive search. The leading vendors are making certain that the word gets out. The next section will provide an overview on some of the industry leaders and their product lines.

THE DOMINANT CORPORATIONS

Profile Summaries of Key Players

There are basically four categories of leading corporations in this market sector. First there are small companies who specialize in wearable computers. These are in their early stages of corporate development and considered high risk. Second there are giant corporations who are targeting a small percentage of their research efforts to this specialty. Third there are large companies that are established in other specialties that would be well served by the growth of the wearable computer. These are viewed as having the best potential to become the leaders of the industry. Fourth, there are vendors who supply components to the wearable computer that see this market opportunity as a ticket to future growth and expansion. I shall provide short profiles of the dominant corporations for each of these categories. Some of the companies are small start up companies, for which I was unable to attain stock quotes or investor analysis but I will include the information that was available on the products, marketing strategies, and company visions.

One name repeatedly surfaced with every reference source and news clip that I read and every individual with whom I discussed wearable computers. That name is the Xybernaut Corporation (NASD:XYBR), which is considered to be the leader in wearable computers today. Xybernaut was founded in 1991 and is located in Fairfax, Virginia. They provide hardware, software and service solutions for the wearable computer. Their customers are leading corporations and government agencies for many mobile knowledge delivery system applications, including maintenance and repair, inspection, inventory control, manufacturing and data collection. Xybernautís new MA IV wearable computer is voice activated and allows the user to move hands free while performing his or her work. It consists of a belt-worn computer, a color head-mounted or flat panel display, a one pound long-lasting, hot swappable battery pack, and integrated voice recognition software. (Xybernaut Corporation Homepage, 1999). For the first quarter of 1999 the company recognized its highest revenues which totaled $654,000. This reflected higher sales of the MA IV mobile computer system. The Vector Vest stock analysis gives the stock a relative value, safety, and timing rating of poor. The growth rate is poor. They recommend selling the stock. (PC Quote, 1999). According to Jason Byrne, a technical writer for the Washington Post newspaper, Xybernautís Mobile Assistant IV sends a mixed message that the "future is now but suggests thereís a better future ahead." He feels that it is suitable only for people with extreme mobility needs who are willing to cope with the shortcomings of the fledgling product. (Byrne, J., 1999)

Via incorporated in 1993 and is headquartered in Northfield, Mn. Last year Via, Inc. introduced Via 11, a commercially available wearable computer. Via 11 consists of an audio headset and a flexible electronics module worn around the waist. Full-duplex audio allows the processor to recognize verbal commands while delivering audio response. (Dun and Bradstreet, 1999)

Phoenix Group Inc. (PGI) was formed in 1994 and is incorporated in New York State, located on Long Island. Their product line includes Heads-Up Displays (HUDís) for operation in a true "hands free" environment through voice recognition. The products are designed for demanding industrial and military field applications that require high performance under harsh environmental conditions. They are well suited for vehicle, aircraft, shipboard, and outdoor filed applications. PGIís marketing strategy has been to focus on directly targeting potential volume users through an international network of sales representatives. Their customers include Fortune 500 Companies, the U.S Department of Defense, and Foreign Ministries of Defense. (Phoenix Group, Inc., 1999)

Speech Systems Incorporated (SyVox Corporation) develops custom speech recognition applications, specializing in mobile applications that can operate in noisy environments. Founded in 1981, SyVox Corporation supplies mobile information technology solutions to Fortune 500 corporate end users of industrial and professional applications. SyVox offers complete system design, site surveys, installation and support.

The company is privately held and is headquartered in Boulder, CO with a European subsidiary in Brugge, Belgium. Last year SyVox Corporation (formerly Speech Systems, Inc.) announced the availability of a new warehouse picking application based on interactive speech technologies and wearable computers, called SyVox Pick2Voice (P2V). It allows the worker to hear pick instructions through a headset earpiece and to speak data and instructions to the system through a headset microphone. The main P2V components are speech technologies, wireless RF networks and wearable computers. According to SyVox beta test results, it is possible to achieve up to a 30% increase in productivity over a paper-based picking method. (SyVox, Inc., 1999.)

Orang-Otang Computers, Inc., headquartered in Sacramento, California, is the leading developer of arm-mounted computer and telephony products. Orang-Otang's intellectual property portfolio includes a wide range of wearable computing and communications devices, which offer user convenience and mobility. The "Peel" line of products, including the "Peel-It" and the "Outrigger" wearable personal digital assistant (PDA) cases are the first wearable computing accessories designed for the consumer market. Orang-Otang also publishes the first commercial periodical devoted to the wearable industry, Wearable Computing Magazine. (Orang-Otang, 1999.) They were founded in 1995 to make "Technology for Primates," a mission which includes liberating those primate-specific features of information technology users known as "hands." The Peel-It has intrigued the media as the least expensive way to own a fully internet-capable, wearable computer. Peel-Its come in all colors, including a new blue jean denim model. When in place on a user's forearm, the patent-pending Peel-It enables a PDA to swivel in place 360 degrees for easy sharing and viewing. This swiveling feature is particularly useful for bar-code scanning operations where the user must have both hands free. Orang-Otang also offers an industrial version of the Peel-It, entitled the Durango line, which fits automatic data capture units such as the Symbol SPT-1500. (Wearable Computing Magazine, 1999)

Inroad, Inc, founded in 1997, is a privately held company, based in Seattle, Washington that is committed to leading the industry with the creation and production of innovative information systems. The companyís flagship product is the thin client wearable computer. The Inroad Inquire is a wearable computing system that uses sophisticated speech recognition technology to interact with business applications in warehouse environments, speeding order and shipping processes and delivering measurable efficiencies above and beyond traditional paper-based systems. Weighing in at just 24 ounces, Inroad Inquire can comfortably be worn for a full shift without impeding movement. On a flexible belt, users wear a lightweight, powerful CPU with a rechargeable lithium ion battery pack and a hand-operated remote control unit. A headset with a noise-attenuating earphone and a microphone allows the user to communicate with speech-activated system and application software. Built-in interfaces attach bar code scanners and other peripherals at the discretion of the user. Local servers host the application software, accessible via a wireless network, providing the connection point between the wearable thin clients and enterprise system software. (Inroad, Corp., 1999)

IBM Corporation carries the WorkPad as part of its product line. The WorkPad is a small, portable device that can be worn on the belt or fits into a pocket. It has the same basic computing capabilities as a laptop or notebook computer. The IBM WorkPad provides mobile users the capability of accessing and updating address books, calendars, scheduling, to-do lists, and expense functions. At IBMís User Systems Ergonomic Research lab in Almaden, California work is being done on a number of variations of wearable computers. A personal digital assistant for grade-school children is one such effort. It looks like a slate that was used before paper was prevalent. It holds assignments, performs calculations, and helps kids manage their homework. It interfaces with other Kidsí Computers to facilitate collaboration, and it can access a teacherís computer to download assignments or feedback. (IBM, Corp., 1999)

Nokia is a global company whose key growth areas are wireless and wireline telecommunications. A pioneer in mobile telephony, Nokia is the world's leading mobile phone supplier as well as a top supplier of mobile and fixed telecom networks and services. Nokia also creates solutions and products for fixed and wireless data communications. High Speed Circuit Switched Data (HSCSD) is a standard that gives users the mobile equivalent of an ISDN line. Mobile users gain significant benefits from substantially higher transmission speed. It makes possible new mobile applications such as shorter video Connection times. Users will be able send large files over mobile links that they could not send before. The Nokia HSCSD offers a way of satisfying the current demands of users with high mobile data use, while laying the groundwork to capture the lucrative data markets that will open up with the advent of third generation mobile systems. Nokia is also a leader in Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) that brings internet open standards to mobile phones. This will enable mobile phone users to access data. (Nokia, Inc., 1999)

CASIO first entered the digital watch market in 1974. Since then, CASIO has become the worldís leading digital watch manufacturer and continues to redefine the standards of the industry by creating innovative new products with features and functions for sports enthusiasts, business professionals, outdoor adventurers, and others with varied interests from all walks of life. CASIO has a complete line of watches for outdoors including models with direction and relative altitude sensors, plus other features that have made Casio products appealing to sports enthusiasts around the world. Casio first entered the Windows CE Handheld Personal Computer market in1996. Since then they have produced the smallest palm held PC, a global positioning systems (GPS) wrist watch and several other innovative devices to address the needs of the mobile user. (Casio, Inc., 1999)

In this section, I have identified the key corporations that are taking the wearable computer seriously. Xybernaut, Via, Computing Devices, Phoenix, SyVox, Orang-Otang, and Inroad fall into the first category of new start-up companies focused on wearable computers. IBM falls into the second category of well-established leaders who are investing a percentage of their research into wearables. Nokia and Casio are in the third category of established companies in complementary product lines. The final category of companies who would benefit from the advancement of wearables are basically all of the component vendors such as the companies who are marketing displays, speech technology, wireless networks, light weight power supplies, etc. SyVox falls into this category as they are actually a leader in speech technology and have expanded that line to include wearables. However they are also providing their speech technology to other competing companies who are marketing wearable computers, such as Inroads, Inc. Following is a discussion of other such natural partnerships.

Mergers and Partnerships

One type of partnering arrangement is through partial ownership of the service provider such as in the following example. Computing Devices International, Inc., the defense electronics and systems integration business unit of Ceridian Corporation, provides information management services for defense and other government agencies worldwide, as well as for commercial customers in selected markets.. They provide a wearable computer as part of their product line. It is actually the product of Key Idea Development LLC., a company in which Computing Devices has a 20 percent ownership share. Computing Devices has exclusive rights to sell the two pound wearable computer to the military and airline maintenance markets, and the device is now in production in a Computing Devices Facility. Both companies are located in Minnesota. (Dun and Bradstreet, 1999)

In other instances companies are bringing their specialties together to provide an improved product to the marketplace. There have been several recent news articles of these types of mutually beneficial teaming arrangements such as the following examples. On March 22, 1999 SyVox Corporation of Boulder, Colo., and ViA, Inc., of Northfield, Minn., announced a Value Added Reseller (VAR) partnership that will allow SyVox to resell the ViA II wearable PC with SyVoxís Pick2Voice (P2V) speech solution for warehouse picking. In July 1999, Xybernaut Corporation granted a royalty-bearing license to Teltronics and its wholly owned subsidiary, Interactive Solutions, Inc. This demonstrates Xybernautís intent to capture a significant portion of the world market either directly or through licensing. They have established their intellectual property in over 25 countries. (Xybernaut Grants License, 1999) These are only a couple of the many types of partnering arrangements that are occurring among the vendors of wearable computers.

THE EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES/THE CORPORATIONS DEVELOPING THEM

Research and Development Activities

"Several research groups both in industry and academe, vying to develop products for the still nascent wearable computer market, are a good indication that the market is poised for explosive growth, according to a new Futuretech report from Technical Insights, a unit of John Wiley and Sons, Inc., Wearable Computers: From Personal Area Networks to Smart Clothing. Companies such as Xybernaut, IBM, and Syvox are actively developing wearable wares. Researchers at several universities including MIT, Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Toronto are working on novel concepts with applications for everything from factories and warehouses to emergency services and even covert surveillance. (Soon Youíll Be Wearing Your Computer, 1999)

Corporate Interest and Investments

Xybernaut has expanded their outreach to several world markets. This summer they expanded operations into Central and South America. (Xybernaut Expands Operations, 1999) Most of the start-up companies such as Xybernaut are firmly establishing their legal rights to protect their intellectual capital, with the expectation of earning significant royalties through the growth of the industry. As discussed previously, large companies such as IBM, Casio, and Nokia are conducting research and developing products.

Sponsors

The Department of Defense is one of the primary sponsors of research today for wearable computers. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has funded several projects aimed at providing commanders with immediate access to information from the battlefield. Earlier this year Boeing awarded Irvine Sensors a one million dollar contract in add-ons for the Advanced Humionics Platform (AHP), a wearable, voice-activated system of integrated electronics and sensors, intended to be part of future soldiersí clothing. (Webb, W., 1999)

NASAís Johnson Space Center is also testing a wearable personal computer to monitor human statistics and speed up astronaut flight-simulator training. They are working with MIT and St. Leo College to determine the effectiveness of the wearable computer to enhance training. (Inside Aviation/Aerospace, 1999)

The medical field is another area that is supporting research on wearables because there is such tremendous potential for use. Emergency-medical technicians could have instant access to lifesaving information, procedures and communications with specialists. People with disabilities could have increased mobility and enhanced living conditions.

In addition to these specific service areas, several corporations such as IBM are investing a portion of their research dollars into wearable computers and supporting technologies. For example the telecommunications industry has been adding data transfer capabilities over specialized mobile radio spectrum. Nextel Communications in Mclean, Virginia has expanded its services from data over analog to digital voice. (Dodd, A.Z, 1998) As the market interest in such capabilities expands, continued research in providing these types of services will respond accordingly.

FUTURE TECHNOLOGICAL TRENDS FOR THE SECTOR

Forecasts

Each year the Gartner Group identifies ten technologies that are expected to attract the most attention due to marketing hype, rapid technology evolution or growing application adoption. Wearable computers have been on that list for the past three years. Their analysts speculate that wearable computing will remain largely a curiosity for the next few years, with an unstable and rapidly-evolving vendor marketplace. However they suggest that enterprises with hands-busy mobile applications should investigate and prototype the technology and deploy tactically if appropriate. In this yearís technology trends report released by the Gartner Group, wearables were predicted to enter the mainstream by the year 2006. ( Gartner Group, Strategic Analysis Report, 1999)

Projected Interest/Market Appeal

"New research from International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates the United States demand in the industrial, manufacturing, government, and medical sectors will drive growth in the wearable PC marketplace in the United States, pushing the potential market opportunity to $600 million by 2003. Because of the growing demand and the compelling applications in the manufacturing and military sectors, wearable computing rates 34 (on a scale of 1-100, 100 being most valuable) on the IDC Emergent Technology Markets Commercial Viability index." (Computing From the Hip, 1999) IDC is a division of International Data Group, a world leading IT media, research , and exposition company.

SUMMARY/CONCLUSIONS

The industry sector of wearable computers is today in the very early stages of its evolution. Although research has been conducted for over two decades, there is still ambiguity in even the definition and standards are in the early phases of development. Small start-up companies dominate the corporate interest and energy. They are establishing legal rights to their intellectual capital and forming partnerships with large vendors who have an established market and can easily integrate wearable computers into their product line and expand customer services. Most of the uses are prototype projects and are facing many human factor limitations. Continual advances in technology such as the increased processing power available in very small sizes of components and the expanded wireless telecommunications capabilities, have provided the foundation for an infrastructure to support the advancement of the wearable computer industry.

Wearable computing is still largely an emerging technology with considerable interest and potential for future growth and expansion. Today the technology is available and is beginning to be cost effective. These factors make it more than science fiction. There are tremendous opportunities for many applications. Only when a good business case is made, will the full potential of the market be recognized. Investing in this area still remains speculative. It is considered to be a small niche market with limited potential. Not long ago many people thought the same of the personal computer. What will happen to this industry in the next decade? Will Cyborgs become the norm? My opinion is that today the technocrats are excited about the future for wearable computers because they recognize the capabilities. At the point in time when the business leaders recognize these capabilities, the market could see a very rapid explosion. Will it happen by 2009? That is the key question today. How long will it take to unleash this market? The answer is dependent on many factors. One thing is certain, wearable computers are here now and will forever be a part of our future. Exactly the role that they will play remains to be seen.
 


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Xybernaut Corporation (1999). 12701 Fair Lakes Circle, Suite 550, Fairfax, Va. 22033. Marketing Specifications.

Xybernaut Corporation. Homepage, 1999. http:www.wearablecomputing.com/xybr012199.htm

Xybernaut Expands Operations into Central and South America: Sees Significant Market Opportunities in Latin America for Its Wearable Computer. (1999, July 14). PR Newswire Association, Inc.

Xybernaut Grants License to Teltronics for Wearable Computers, Significant Future Revenues Expected From Licensing (1999, July 20). PR Newswire Association, Inc.

Xybernaut Wearable Computer Selected by Rutgers University for Demonstration to Select Congress and DoD Personnel. (1999, June 10). PR Newswire Association, Inc.
 
 

Last Updated August 9, 1999