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 Images
Show Hide image

How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.