Recap: Talking Wearables and Mobile Experiences at Mobile World Congress

Mobile World Congress (MWC) plays host to more than 70,000 professionals seeking to educate themselves on the future of the most rapidly evolving industry the world has ever seen. Through keynote presentations, panel discussions and news announcements from innovative companies, MWC offers an unprecedented window into the future of all things mobile. A whole crew of Airshippers attended MWC this year to meet with customers and prospects, as well as share our big news and vision for the industry.

Along with our panel participation at Wearable Wednesday, we were honored to moderate a MWC panel discussion, entitled "Wearables and Apps: the ties that bind brands to fans." Our esteemed panelists are defining the current market and future of wearables, including:

—  Simon Prakash, Senior Director of Hardware, Google[x], has been instrumental in helping to define product features and requirements for the current version of Google Glass and is currently defining the next generation.

—  Laurent Le Pen, CEO of Omate, successfully crowd-funded Omate TrueSmart through Kickstarter to create the world's first water-resistant, standalone smartwatch.

—  William Hurley (aka whurley), co-founder & Chief Innovation Officer, Chaotic Moon Studios, helps brands think about their products decades ahead with in-house innovations like the Board of Imagination, The Smarter Cart™ and the Helmet of Justice showcasing a disruptive future.

—  Dylan Boyd, Managing Director, Techstars, is focused on its accelerator programs with Nike, R/GA, Sprint and others, with the goal of helping the next generation of startups seize market opportunity and shape the future of things to come.

Panelists agreed that Google Glass really opened up wearables to the investor set and created more momentum for the category, but this enthusiasm was also tempered by the fact that many people feel like they can do without any of today’s wearables. Ultimately, success will depend on the ability to truly enhance lives, in addition to managing and organizing data generated from wearables in ways that keep users engaged over time.

Some of the core points coming out of the discussion included:

  1. The market and media are focused on health & fitness applications and new devices, while other industries like telecommunications, education, healthcare, finance and retail are poised for rapid adoption once consumer acceptance grows.
  2. The two biggest hurdles for companies in the space right now are data portability and security, which will shape the future of the market.
  3. Battery technology—and innovations like solar and human-powered kinetic batteries, and others—is also key to the whole market, because you can’t be charging everything you own all the time. Wearable charges need to last 10 days on full use at minimum, or be built so that whenever you take them off, wherever you set them the charge replenishes like Ringblingz’s holder.
  4. The most successful entrepreneurs are really focused on the design and user experience, while encouraging open ecosystems and participation across platforms. Folks like Ford are moving away from building their own apps to an SDK model with AppLink that allows Android and iOS apps to work with its new Dash system. Wearables can do this too, but there are challenges as some are build on small Arduino systems without existing app developer ecosystems.
  5. There is a need to improve the fashion of wearables, as taking a one-sized-fits-all approach doesn't work. Innovation, design and personalization will be key factors, and we expect to see continued collaboration between tech companies and designers to make their hardware as striking as their interfaces.

Wearable tech is already a $3-$5 billion market today, and experts are predicting massive growth in the next two to three years with the market skyrocketing to $30-50 billion. Mary Meeker famously predicted that the next ten years will be about wearable computers, just like the last ten years were about mobile computing and the ten years before that were about personal computers. It seems certain that wearables are the next big thing, yet the mobile devices and apps that billions of us already carry around in our palms and pockets will continue to act as the hub between us and the sensors all around us, whether they are on our wrists, in our homes or embedded in our cars.