Are things speeding up? The most common answer is yes.
We at VINT are currently working on our second Things research report on wearable computing and other related technologies. Often deemed the next phase of the post-pc era. One question that surfaces is if this new mobile form-factor is going to catch on just as quick as the smartphone did. Market analysis is pretty optimistic. According to IMS Research, the wearables market is poised to grow from 14 million devices shipped in 2011 to as many as 171 million units shipped by 2016. In a more recent estimate, ABI Research pegs the wearables market at 485 million annual device shipments by 2018. Others say the global annual wearable device unit shipments will cross the 100 million milestone in 2014, and reaching 300 million units five years from now.
The real question might be much simpler; will people sleep in front of a store to be the first to buy say Google Glass, just like the thousands of people who do for a new iphone.
Recent statistics on technology adaption show an increasing pace. The chart below, created by Nicholas Felton (NYT) shows how long it took various categories of products, from electricity to the Internet, to achieve different penetration levels in households in the US. It took decades for the telephone to reach 50% of households, beginning before 1900. It took five years or less for cellphones to accomplish the same penetration in 1990.
This second graph, by Michael DeGusta (MIT) shows similar results. It took 30 years for electricity and 25 years for telephones to reach 10% adoption but less than five years for tablet devices to achieve the 10% rate. It took an additional 39 years for telephones to reach 40% penetration and another 15 before they became ubiquitous. Smart phones, on the other hand, accomplished a 40% penetration rate in just 10 years.
So of course we know that results from the past do not give any guarantees for the future. We have seen results from the quick adoption of wearable activity trackers in the US, but that fits in to older technologies like pedometers etc. If wearables boil down to just another notification platform, my take is that it will not catch on quick. If new value is created by introducing new and more anticipatory ways of handeling information, it would make much more sense.
How do you feel? Are you planning on buying a smartwatch of a glass-like device? Let us know in the comments.