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The Apple Watch signals the end of the wearables market

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There has been debate over the number of pre-orders made for the soon to be available Apple Watch, with an estimate coming in at over two million - more than the number of Android wearables sold in the last year.

But Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at NYU, and founder of business intelligence company L2, says wearables are dead.

At the Demandware Xchange 2015 conference in Las Vegas, Galloway claimed the Apple Watch signals a nail in the coffin of the wearables market, because everything people can do on a wearable they can do on their phone.

According to Galloway the Apple Watch is the deathblow to the overestimated wearables market, because the current conception of wearables is just an extension of your phone that does not add much additional value.

As a luxury brand, people are buying the Apple Watch as a status symbol rather than for its functionality, and Apple has been able to drive these sales because its brand is so strong they know exactly how to appeal to customers.

"To get someone to put something on their person, that's such a delicate incredibly difficult thing to do." says Galloway.

Just as in the fashion industry, retailers have to put careful consideration into the design and branding of products because anything you put on your person contributes to people's outward impression of you, and what you wear says something about you.

According to Galloway this is also part of the reason that Google Glass proved not to be as successful as other wearables - Apple knows how to use their brand to appeal to a large market who will pay for the privilege of being an Apple user, something Google proved not to get right.

Not only does the Apple Watch act as an extension of your iPhone but it also measures your fitness by tracking steps, movement, heartrate and uses the iPhone's GPS to track distance of travel.

So what does that mean for wearables such as fitness trackers, or even applications that use your phone to track lifestyle? We'll just have to see.

CES 2015: A summary of this year's Consumer Electronics Show

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As a first-time attendee of CES I distinctly remember thinking on my flight over to Vegas: "What have I let myself in for?"

It turns out the answer was a week of no sleep, motivational videos designed to make you cry and more gadgets than I could shake a stick at. It doesn't matter what time it is in Vegas, there's always something going on, and with the show spread over three major areas across the city it's almost impossible to take everything in.

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But here are the top trends I noticed during my week in Sin City:

People aren't interested in JUST data collection anymore

One of the biggest themes of the week was the concept that devices that collect data are no longer useful unless they are able to interpret it and make changes for the better.

At the show, Shawn G DuBravac, chief economist and senior director of research at the Consumer Electronics Association, discussed the need for a "feedback loop"  whereby the analog input method for digitisation and curation is then used to influence and change behaviour, feeding back to the original input method.

It was widely agreed across the conference that until this feedback loop occurs, digital and connected technology will not contribute towards a better and more convenient standard of living.

Everyone is focussed on making things "better"

CEA representatives were saying it, Samsung's CEO was saying it, the big boss at Intel was saying it - everyone agreed that the internet of things and other connected technologies could act as a gateway towards a better existence for human beings.

According to Samsung's keynote at the opening of the show, "better" means different things to different people, and the public said the technology of the future should "be faster", "save time" and "track efficiency".

And that's just everyday life - Intel spoke about how its RealSense technology can allow automated drones to more easily navigate on their own, allowing easier drop off of items such as medical supplies.

The firm also shared its plans for a more diverse workforce by launching its own Diversity in Technology initiative, aiming to improve not just technology but the industry itself.

The wearables market is as confused as ever

The last few years at CES has seen wearables move from a possible future concept into a full blown industry segment. The problem is, wearables still don't know what they want to be.

In the CES Marketplaces innovation hall technology booths were split into sections, which included Wearables, Health & Wellness, Fitness & Technology, Smart Watches and Sports Tech, all of which contained, amongst other things, wearables of some kind.

Some of the products could have landed in any of these categories, and the line between several of these segments is very thin.

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With fashion designer Lauren Bowker claiming earlier this year that she doesn't like her scientific designs being referred to as wearable tech, it's clearly an industry that, although has many products already embedded into people's lifestyle, doesn't know where it's going.

I think wearables is a technology category becoming a bit too big for its boots, and it needs to decide where its loyalties lie - fitness, wellness or convenience.

3D printing is actually going somewhere

Last year 3D printing seemed like a gimmick that would never take off. Now it's a legitimate industry used for activities such as rapid prototyping, and many products surfaced at CES that could expand the opportunities of the 3D printing market.

Intel's plans to integrate Intel's Core i7 processors within HP's upcoming HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer is a step towards fast printing for functional items such as chainlinks and other working parts for the engineering industry.

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A 3D printing pen that allows users to draw a functioning 3D object was also on display in the Marketplaces hall, as well as many smaller 3D printers for home use that could solve expensive outsourcing problems for wannabe engineers.

From a concept people scoffed at to a range of technologies with practical uses, the 3D printing industry has come along in leaps and bounds.

The Chinese market is booming

Once technology was only manufactured in China on behalf of other businesses, but now Chinese companies are huge, and producing products for both domestic and international markets.

From smartphones to smarthomes, China definitely had a huge presence at the show this year, and the trend doesn't look to slow down any time soon.

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The internet of things and smarthomes are both the fastest growing and least developed segments

Everyone was talking about the current proliferation and development of the internet of things this year, including the smarthome and how connected devices can help to improve people's lives and save people time.

However much like wearables, some of these technologies still don't quite have the edge that's needed to make them as useful as they could be.

We discussed earlier technology must provide information that allows users to manipulate and improve their environment in order to fully prove its usefulness.

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What was also highlighted by Samsung's CEO was the need for greater collaboration between different industry segments and regulators to ensure the internet of things is able to properly move forward and work seamlessly.

Looks like we have a lot to keep an eye on over the next year! 

CES 2015: Panasonic challenges GoPro with new wearable camera tech

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Panasonic has a lot going on this year, with a focus on its "green mobility strategy", fridges and washing machines to enhance the kitchen and let's not forget televisions.

But probably the most noteworthy part of Panasonic's presentation at the International CES in Vegas this year was their new range of fitness products, including the A500, a 4K mountable sports camera, part of the the Panasonic Adventure range for outdoor activities.

Julie Bauer, president of Panasonic's consumer electronics company, described its new wearable camera following up with the statement:

"Watch out GoPro."

Although that was the only bold move Panasonic made, they still showcased a number of interesting products and ideas, some already achieved and some they want to release into the wild.

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During the show, the wearable was on display, modelled by 'Spartan' athletes who were hell-bent on proving its durability by emerging from a pool of water and climbing a frame whilst wearing the camera mounted on their heads.

On the subject of cameras the firm also announced a set of home security cameras designed to be put around the home and controlled remotely by tablet anywhere around the house.

Those weren't the only cool thing they were exhibiting either; Panasonic demoed the concept of a virtual reality mirror able to project makeup onto to see what works well on your face. I envisage this sort of technology being used in the future to show plastic surgery patients what they might look like after a procedure, or in retail to virtually try on outfits.

Panasonic's CEO and chairman Joe Taylor also announced a partnership with Ford in order to "transform" vehicle communications and in-car entertainment using its Sync 3 technology.

But a big concern for Panasonic, as mentioned earlier, is the environment, and Panasonic has put a lot of time and effort into solutions to power vehicles and cities in more energy efficient ways.

The company spoke of its production of Lithium Ion batteries, a power source for electric Prius vehicles and other automotives, which is the number one use for these batteries globally.

It also spoke of producing scooters, called Gogoro, powered by smart swapping batteries that can be docked in power stations and swapped for a fully charged unit on the spot.

Finally the firm announced its Gigafactory which is currently under construction, designed to produce electric vehicle battery products. Panasonic predicts an annual production for 500,000 tesla cars by 2020 to be powered by renewable energy. The factory will employ 6500 workers and aim to establish more green mobility manufacturers. 

CES Unveiled 2015: What's happening in Vegas?

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In the lead up to this year's Consumer Electronics Show, a number of companies including both startups and established brands exhibited their innovative ideas to press and industry analysts, benchmarking this year's trends.

By far this year's standout trends are automotive connectivity and bigger, better and smarter televisions, as well as an increase in internet of things connected products and ever more useful wearables.

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Among some of the familiar brands exhibiting included technology services company Accenture, consumer health technology developer Withings and networking equipment producer D-Link.

Although there were many familiar faces, there were also some new companies such as Slow Control, which were boasting a smart baby bottle, Patchworks Inc and its edge-to-edge smartphone screen protectors and Fitlinxx developing fitness wearables.

There were also a number of innovative new products including a digital pinball machine, a slate that can be used to track and digitise things written on physical paper, and a smart plant pot.

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The internet of things and wearable technology are big trends still being developed from last year's CES, but last year we also saw a lot of technology many people probably didn't need.

This year there seems to be a theme of connected technology that actually gives back - creating that ever important feedback loop to justify data collection in the first place.

During Unveiled, I overheard a passer-by claim "Anything that saves you a little bit of hassle is a good thing." and I think this year we'll definitely see more technology designed not just to save people time, but to implement a positive change in the way they behave.

It's clear we can look forward to some exciting things over the next week as the show enters full swing. 

What can be defined as wearable tech?

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We're slowly moving into the wearable generation, and the number of people bringing wearables into the workplace is steadily increasing.

The battle of wearable technology is in full swing, with Microsoft launching its first wearable device just months after Apple announced plans for its Apple Watch. 

When many people think of wearables, fitness trackers and smartwatches are what spring to mind.

But wearable technology can be anything from a health monitor to mobile controlled garments.

Or can it? Designer Lauren Bowker, founder of The Unseen, has roots in Chemistry and has developed a range of clothing that reacts to biological and chemical stimulus as opposed to just electrical.

Her garments, which she recently showcased at the Innovate UK event in London, are "human focussed" and include pieces that change colour depending "environmental fluctuations" or stimulation from the brain.

The first piece is made of leather and changes colour in reaction to the wind and air. Originally Bowker thought this type of technology could be used for F1 in order to assess the aerodynamics of vehicles, but began developing clothes designed to reflect the way wind and air passes over the human body.

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Another piece reacts to heat in the brain and therefore changes colour depending on your thoughts. It could be used in healthcare to communicate feelings that are hidden.

She says in the future, she hopes materials will be created for purpose, and there will be no need for disposable fashion, as one garment can be adapted to be suitable for all situations, moods and weather.  

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But she doesn't believe this is wearable tech, to her it's just material.

"Everyone is calling The Unseen wearable tech whereas we really don't want to be called wearable tech. There's wearable computing, which I see more as the smartwatches," Bowker says. "That to me is just another gadget."

Bowker points out that other fabrics such as polyester could been deemed wearable tech if the way it is used it taken into consideration, so people should be careful to address specific categories garments fall under.

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"Treat this as a design-led project rather than a recent trend." Bowker says.

A recent survey by Beecham Research found technology companies do not have the right approach to wearable technology and devices are not what consumers want to wear.

Not for profit organisation the London College of Fashion's 'Innovation Agency' works with technology companies to make technology driven clothing.

Matthew Drinkwater, head of the agency, describes working with Nokia on a digital skirt made of smartphones, and collaborating with Microsoft to create trousers that charge your phone in your pocket as just some of the projects the agency has worked on.

At Innovate UK Drinkwater showcased the Innovation Agency's Tinkerbell inspired dress, created during a collaboration with Disney using fibre optics and LEDs.

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But again, he claims wearables should centre on fashion instead of simply being another branch of technology.

Drinkwater says: "Everything before had been functionality focus and device focus, we just want to try and use tech to make something really beautiful."


iPhone 6: The specs we're all hoping for

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Rumour has it images of the iPhone 6 were leaked last week, with pictures alluding to a potential release date of September 9th for the much coveted next generation device.

A number of other speculations have also been flying around, including NFC potential, heart rate monitors and wireless charging.

But what does everyone really want from their iPhone? We've reported before on how it can be very difficult to incorporate Apple products in the enterprise due to the high cost of support. This might not be solved with a new handset, but a number of SDKs were released at the WWDC 2014 to give developers a better in to the device, and enhanced device features such as NFC could bridge this gap even further.

Here's a roundup of what could be coming up in Apple's big announcement if everything we've been hearing is true:

Touch ID

Phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the previous iPhone 5S have toyed with fingerprint ID to safely unlock the phone, so it would make sense it the iPhone 6 had an improved version of this technology.

NFC

A lot of other phones already have NFC capabilities built in, and with contactless-everything on the rise this is a feature that will come in extremely handy and is widely expected.

iOS 8

With a new phone comes a new mobile operating system, and the new iOS 8 promises features such as easy-to-develop applications for developers due to the new API kits available, improved messaging and smart keyboard. As far as being included in the iPhone 6 package, this one is pretty much a given.

iWatch

The wearable trend is rapidly increasing, and a number of premium vendors are now jumping on the band wagon with their own bond-style watches and wristbands. If you're like me, you're waiting to see what Apple has to offer before deciding on which wearable to invest in - and if an iWatch is on the cards as a supplementary device to the new iPhone, it looks like we'll all have a little less money by Christmas.

Check back to the Inspect-a-Gadget for further coverage on new Apple announcements. 

FIRST LOOK: Motorola's Moto 360 smartwatch

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With Apple's big announcement approaching, there has been much speculation about whether the technology giant will be releasing its own smartwatch.

In the meantime, other innovators are speeding ahead with their version of the latest wearable trend, and Motorola is no exception.

The telecoms company, which was recently bought from Google by Chinese tech firm Lenovo, announced several new products last week, including its flagship Moto G and Moto X smartphone devices and of course, the Moto 360 smartwatch.

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I had a chance to try out the gadget, and apart from the fact it was a little big, I have no complaints. The watch face is touchscreen, and responds to similar swiping commands to smartphone - up for unlocking, left and right for opening and dismissing.

The watch has a choice of several available watch-faces to mirror your mood and is powered by Google. This means the device is Google Now enabled, so you can ask it anything you want, from when historical events took place, to reminding you to pick up some flowers for your parrot.  

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With a built in heart-rate monitor and pedometer for step counting, it also appeals to the health-conscious among us.

Although the device is quite chunky, the large face does make it more usable and easy to read. It comes in two models, with a starting price of £199 and is usable with Android operating systems 4.3 and up.

Specs at a glance:

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  • OS: Android Wear
  • Dimensions: 46mm diameter by 11mm high, 49g
  • Battery: Full day use
  • Processor: TI OMAP™ 3
  • Memory: 4GB, 512MB RAM

 

The Moto 360 will be available from October this year, from O2, Tesco, Amazon and John Lewis. Check back to the Inspect-a-gadget soon for a full review.

Cognitive enhancement devices - can accessories really make you smarter?

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We're being launched into the days of smart technology, where our phones are better than computers, we're wearing devices that can monitor our every move and even our fridges are connected to the internet. 

It isn't surprising that manufacturers have been toying with devices designed to make you smarter, and we managed to get hold of a Foc.us gaming headset. This uses an electrical current to stimulate particular parts of your brain to 'improve' your thinking power. 

However, a recent policy paper by researchers at Oxford University's Oxford  Martin School has urged for greater regulation for devices such as this.

In this video, Computer Weekly interviews Adrian David Cheok, professor of pervasive computing at City University. Cheok tries out a cognitive enhancement device (CED) to see how it makes him feel, and whether it does indeed make him 'smarter'.


During the testing process, Cheok stated that the device made him feel as though his brain was more stimulated, and he did perform better with the headset on. But he also said that it left him with a strange sensation in the area the headset was touching, as well as sensitive skin.

These devices are currently used by consumers in gaming and education in order to enhance their performance.

But according to Hannah Maslen, lead author of the Oxford Martin paper entitled "Mind Machines: The Regulation of Cognitive Enhancement Devices", this device by Foc.us is the first commercially branded cognitive enhancement device, and people have previously attempted to make these devices themselves. 

Maslen emphasised that consumers should be provided with "evidence based information so that users will be able to decide for themselves if the risks are worth taking."

Currently though, there is a distinct lack of regulation around devices such as this, which according to Maslen and other authors of the report could be dangerous, as these devices change the electrical activity of the brain. 

In Europe, these devices are only required to pass product safety requirements, even though the electrical signals used by these devices have the potential to alter the brain's electrical activity. 

Similar devices are under trial in the medical industry to attempt to treat illnesses such as depression and Parkinson's.

But because CEDs do not provide any kind of medical diagnosis or therapy, they do not come under the Medical Devices Directive, and can therefore not be governed by the same rules.

In the paper, Maslen and fellow authors Thomas Douglas, Roi Cohen Kadosh, Neil Levy and Julian Savulescu, outline a pathway to designing a regulatory model for the use of CEDs.

They recommend that devices such as this should come under the EU Medical Devices Directive as they provide some of the same medical risks as similar devices used for medicine. 

When it comes down to it, it's all about consumer safety. Maslen says: "It's about making sure that devices that we're sold are as safe as they can be."

Lenovo's answer to Google Glass - function over fashion?

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I wrote a story a little while ago about Beecham Research's survey on wearable tech. The study found consumers will not partake in wearable technology if it does not match their fashion needs as well as their functional requirements.

So when I saw these pictures of the Lenovo smartglasses prototype, my eye went straight to the necklace battery.

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Photo: Lenovo

I couldn't help but wonder whether this addition would end up hindering the sales of the product in the future. This is a classic case of function - increased battery life - over fashion. And besides, wouldn't it get hot during use? If the PC maker is hoping to compete with Google Glass, it might have to try a little harder aesthetically.

Although Lenovo has been doing well in the PC market, it has recently been looking into ways to collaborate with other organisations to extend its market reach.

The glasses have been developed as part of Lenovo's New Business Development (NBD) initiative aiming to accelerate internet of things based Chinese startups. The smartglasses are one of three smart devices developed, including a router and an air purifier.

These products are aimed at the Chinese market, and run Chinese operating systems optimised for use with the internet in that particular region. 

Apple announces iOS 8 at WWDC 2014

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At this week's WWDC 2014 - the conference that tells developers everything they need to know about what Apple has planned for the future - Apple introduced its next mobile operating system iOS 8.

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The new OS brings with it over 4000 new APIs in order to allow developers more opportunity to make applications for Apple's flagship iPad and iPhone devices.

There was a focus on the new HealthKit API, which will allow developers to build apps directed towards fitness and health services. With speculation of an Apple wearable on the horizon, enabling applications such as this could be a step in the smartwatch direction.

Apple also took a leap towards the internet-of-things trend with its new HomeKit API, designed to allow developers to make apps that will allow communication with other devices around the home.

Finally, Apple lightened the restrictions on its touch ID technology, meaning that users will now not only be allowed to access their iPhone lockscreens with the touchpad, but also log into apps. This is of course only on the 5S at the moment, but may also be used with future iPhones.

Although this announcement isn't quite as exciting as the eagerly speculated iWatch, it still encourages the use of smartbands/watches with Apple devices in the future, and brings us one step closer to using our phones to control all things household.

Developers have access to iOS 8 now, but the rest of us will just have to wait.


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