Google (NASDAQ: GOOG ) (NASDAQ: GOOGL ) is making a name for itself in the fast-growing market for wearable technology, with the consumer rollout of its Google Glass. However, the search giant faces increased competition in the space as more deep-pocketed rivals pile into the market. With the wearable-tech space set to become a $10 billion industry by 2016, according to research from Gartner, it's no wonder everyone from Google to Nike (NYSE: NKE ) wants a piece of the action. Here are some promising developments that could play an important role in the wearable category going forward.
From FuelBands to footwear
Fitness trackers are one of the largest categories of wearable devices available on the market today. It's not surprising, then, that Nike is a dominant player in this space. The athletic gear company launched its Nike FuelBand in 2012 to great fanfare, and has since moved into more advanced wearable tech for your feet with new shoe technology that could hit the market as soon as next year.
These high-tech products include Nike sneakers with "self-tightening power laces" and Nike's Hypervenom soccer cleat that features a split-toe plate to maximize agility for sudden changes in direction. While Nike's power laces should be consumer-ready in 2015, the company's FuelBand and Nike+ sensors already let users track their fitness progress and sync that data with a smartphone.
Moreover, at the end of last year Nike released the Nike+ FuelBand SE, an updated version of its original FuelBand product. This iteration of the technology includes Bluetooth 4.0 for faster syncing and an upgraded water-resistance feature that lets wearers keep it on in the shower. In addition to Nike's lead in wearables, these developments help position the company as one of the most innovative in fitness today.
Google is also making new inroads in the wearable tech sector, not only with its Google Glass product but also through a new collaboration with Fossil Group (NASDAQ: FOSL ) to create a smartwatch.
When fashion gets smart
While Fossil is known for its fashion and accessories, teaming up with a tech giant such as Google gives the company an entry point into the budding wearables market. Fossil's chief strategy officer recently said in a statement, "Although still very much in the formative research and development stage, we are committed to playing an active role in the push toward wearable technology and helping to shape the fusion of fashion and technology." We should see more partnerships like this in the future because it gives a primarily tech-focused company such as Google a window into the fashion side of wearables.
Google says its Android Wear smartwatches will be available later this year. Moreover, a recent Connected Life report from Nielsen showed that consumers want wearable devices that double as jewelry. Therefore, there's clearly demand for devices that combine fashion and functionality. And don't overlook Google's latest push to make its Google Glass a hit with style-obsessed consumers through its recent tie-up with Ray-Ban and Oakley.
Last month, Google said it was working with Luxottica Group to bring Ray-Ban and Oakley frames to its Google Glass devices. This partnership should also help Google down the road when it releases Glass to the public, because it will be able to leverage Luxottica's vast retail and wholesale distribution network.
These are just some of the new developments on the horizon in wearable tech. Other companies are cooking up concepts that are even more outrageous, such as solar-powered dresses that could power your smartphone and wristbands that track your exposure to pollutants in the environment. However you slice it, wearable technology promises to be an exciting market for years to come.
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