Wearable computing as an idea has been around for ages. I was watching Toys with Robin Williams on Netflix or somewhere and it seemed to me that the concept really hasn’t moved forward since his musical suit, and I was reading an article recently that tried to argue that everything is there for it to catch on except for the fashion part, but that still didn’t really seem right to me either.
And then it kind of struck me. Wearable computing will never catch on with the masses. Nobody wants to ‘wear’ a computer, and there is already a schism developing between those who choose to do so (Glassholes) and people who resent and dislike where that branch of wearables leads.
But what people do want, and what will catch on, is pretty much the same technology but we won’t call it that.
I like to call it ‘functional clothing’ and we don’t need to wait to see if that will catch on because it’s already all around us and completely accepted in every culture. The functionality just doesn’t include any of the new fancy electronic or wireless stuff yet.
“Uniforms” are functional clothing, and we can already see that ‘wearable computing’ has already been incorporated into some very specialized uniforms – military and police being the prime example. But firemen, UPS delivery folks, meter readers and many other occupations already lug around lots of equipment that they need to do their jobs.
Imagine what McDonalds could do by wiring their kitchens with Bluetooth low energy beacons and their staff with smart wearables woven into the uniforms. Forget that clunky headset the drive thru attendant has to wear. Put google glass on the McDonalds manager and now no matter where they in the kitchen are the display screen showing the orders is there for them to see. As the development costs come down, big companies will see the value in building wearables into the uniforms of their front line staff.
For my part, I’m going to get ahead of the curve and start working on machine washable computing. I suspect dry cleaning is about to make a comeback.