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Do wearables require a new kind of ecosystem?

Forrester analyst JP Gownder says tech companies must create a new type of ecosystem for wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT). However, this ecosystem shouldn’t necessarily focus on developers, hardware makers or service companies.

Image Credit: Adafruit (Atmel-powered Gemma)

Rather, Gownder believes it should prioritize brands, healthcare providers, retailers, financial services companies and governments.

“Let’s be honest: A lot of 1.0 wearables devices are ugly, and tech companies aren’t always the best purveyors of fashion,” Gownder writes in a recent blog post. 

”The wristwatch has been around since 1571 – so watches have a deep cultural history into which smartwatches must integrate themselves. Partnerships between wearable vendors and fashion brands [sic] will be critical.”

Similarly, says Gownder, health and fitness wearables must become embedded in the normative healthcare system.

“Having doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, and corporate wellness programs distribute fitness wearables embeds the information collected into the entire healthcare system,” he continues. 

”Doctors can use the data to treat patients, leading to better health outcomes. And consumers can sometimes receive a discount on their health insurance rates by participating.”

Last, but certainly not least, Gownder envisions a retail future where a wearable device owner walks into a store, is greeted by name and offered customized clothing options in his or her own size.

“Yet, this entire wearable scenario depends on adoption of the technology by retailers,” he emphasizes.

However, Gownder remains understandably optimistic about wearables, noting earlier this week in an InformationWeek article that the rapidly evolving technology represents the next logical step in the mobile revolution.

“If done right – with vigorous ecosystems of brands, retailers, healthcare providers, and even governments tapping into their value – wearables will create more efficient and seamless experiences for wearers,” he concludes.

“As consumers discover the value of wearables, technology managers can expect to see employees bringing smartwatches, smartglasses and other wearables into the workplace. For some of these wearables, existing practices for smartphones and tablets (like the use of mobile device management services) can be adjusted to accommodate new wearable devices.”

Forrester explains Wearables 2.0

Forrester analyst JP Gownder says wearable devices will ultimately change the way workers do their jobs and how consumers manage their lives.

“Every day (and surely this week), I talk to inventors, entrepreneurs and established vendors entering the wearables space. The dynamism I encounter in this space reminds me of the early days of the Web in the late 90s,” Gownder writes in a recent blog post.

“Of course many wearable computing concepts and executions will fail, as is true with any new technology movement. [However], Wearables 2.0 will weed out some of these false starts and focus on three success factors.”

First, says the analyst, companies must develop more comprehensive business paradigms. Indeed, if Wearables 1.0 was about creating technologies, Wearables 2.0 is all about crafting rich business models.

Next up is finding a way to continue working within existing institutions.

“Selling fitness wearables to consumers one on one through retail channels might have its merits for dedicated exercise enthusiasts, quantified selfers and those who want to lose weight,” Gownder explains.

“But having doctors, hospitals, insurance companies and corporate wellness programs distribute fitness wearables embeds the information collected into the entire healthcare system… [Clearly], Wearables 2.0 will intersect with the existing institutions of your life in useful ways.”

Last, but certainly not least is creating enterprise value.

“Because of consumerization – the fact that the technology we have at home is often better, faster-moving, more agile, more mobile, etc. than the tech we are issued at work – we tend to assume now that *all* innovation will originate on the consumer side,” he adds.

“Wearables 2.0 will upend that a bit, because the most useful enterprise devices are often highly specialized. Wearables 2.0 will help enterprises provide value to their customers – a key technology benefit in the age of the customer.”