Wearable tech isn’t exactly new

But the boom has only just begun.

Wearable tech has been a hotly debated subject lately. Innovations like Google Glass have made watches, shoes and other accessories a popular commodity, once they’re upgraded with various types of communicative technology. At the moment, the market for wearable tech has a value of $3-5 billion. But according to a new report from the European banking giant Credit Suisse, the market value for wearable tech will grow ten-fold within the next 3-5 years.

Now, wearable tech isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. We’ve been wearing digital watches since 1970, and they’ve since grown to include various functions such as online chatting and cameras. In recent years, wristbands with diverse functions such as unlocking mechanisms for cars and homes, as well as measuring your pulse or counting the amount of steps you’ve taken in a day, have become a popular accessory for the tech-wise. The latest invention is the Google Glass project, which promises to translate your voice if you need to ask anything in Chinese, give you the answers to curious questions and show the way in case you get lost. All through a slim pair of interactive glasses.

Its no surprise then that two of Silicon Valley’s biggest names, including Apple’s Tim Cook, only last week surmounted that wearable tech is an interesting market at the moment.

Famed venture capitalist and internet trend guru, Mary Meeker, even went so far as to call wearable tech the next big thing.

With developments like these, Credit Suisse says the wearable tech market is on the verge of a sales boom. As such, the bank has recommended clients to invest in heavy hitters such as Apple and Google, as well as up-and-coming companies specialising in software and retail.

However, some people are still skeptical of the trend, pointing out that “big things” such as digital cameras, MP3’s and GPS’s are taking a back seat to the all-mighty smart-phone, which provides all functions in one gadget.

But according to Mary Meeker, wearable tech will likely pick up where the smartphone leaves off.

The average smartphone user checks their device 150 times a day. "What if you didn't have to do that?" Meeker asked at a recent convention, pointing out that the need for quick convenience might circumvent the digital equivalent to a Swiss army knife.  In this respect, a simple, wearable device with sensors could be the answer to our future needs.

However, as Tim Cook pointed out, there’s still a way to go, before iWatches and Google Glass can replace the smart-phone. For example, big data, which is the data-gathering technology used for such intuitive inventions, is still in the developmental phase. In the meantime, tech-companies need to consider that not everyone wants to wear glasses or a wristband if the functions aren’t exceptional compared to a smart-phone. So yes, I agree that wearable tech is an interesting development worth keeping your eyes and money on. But I’m not sure that the boom is quite there yet. Give it a year or two.

Photograph: Getty Images

Sandra Kilhof Nielsen is a freelance writer and former reporter for Retail Banker International, Cards International & Electronic Payments International.

Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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