When in the beginning it was initiated, wearable technology was more of a luxury than a daily necessity. This was true for multitudes globally. Most of the items that could be termed as wearable technology fell under technology gadgets and/or devices category that could be termed as luxury toys for the haves and an unnecessary expense for the have-nots.
However, in five years time, more than $500 billion worth of purchases will paid through a mode that utilizes wearable technology. And interestingly, wearable technology is more impacting I the least expected areas, like rural Africa and South East Asia.
Wearable Technology Case Study: M-Pesa in Kenya
At the turn of the century, mobile telephony was a reserve of the well of in Kenya. That was until 2007 when the country’s largest telephone service provider Safaricom rolled out its mobile payment system, M-Pesa. With over 70% of the population living in the rural areas cut away from banks and majority of telecommunication infrastructure, M-Pesa was a lifeline. Today, M-Pesa has about 20 million registered users; that is nearly half of Kenya’s population. Of this, 13 million are active monthly users. It is now an acceptable means of payment in corporate world including banking. Monthly, about $1.8 billion is transacted through M-Pesa. According to Safaricom’s 2015 financial reports, about 42% of Kenya’s GDP was transacted through M-Pesa.
This is a clear and evident case of where a wearable technology gadget not being a luxury item but a basic necessity-mobile telephone. This technology has been exported by Vodafone to other countries both in and outside Africa. It has also been copied by other companies under different names such as Airtel Money by Bharti Airtel Kenya, Orange Money by Orange Telkom Kenya and M-Birr by M-Birr ICT Services of Ethiopia.
The industry is still relatively young. However, new cutting-edge wearable technology devices are making great leaps. Smartwatches lead in this category. Ever since the launch of the Apple Watch, there has been exponential growth in demand for smartwatches. The smartwatches are not just watches. For example, the Apple Watch is both a fitness tracker. You can also sync your iPhone with it and literally have your phone on the wrist!
And the list of wearable technology gadgets bound to positively impact on the way of life enmasse is growing each day. There are gadgets like Vigo, an alertness and energy gauge which will buzz an wake you up in case you start sleeping while you shouldn’t; say for example in a lecture hall.
Wearable Technology in Healthcare
Even more importantly are wearable technology gadgets designed with health in mind. Some are designed for simple tasks like fitness which impact profoundly on health. Some leading examples for health wearable technology gadgets include Microsoft band, Jawbone, Misfit, Fitbit and Garmin. Others are designed more intricately to avoid fatal health scenarios by alerting victims well in advance for them to act. For example, the Automated Device for Asthma Monitoring and Management or ADAMM which is a device that incorporates an app that provides real time data which helps the recipient patient in monitoring and managing asthma. Though still in design phase, once available in the market, this piece of wearable technology is set to be a game changer for all asthma patients.
It is only fair to say that wearable technology in is the next revolutionary frontier in modern living, probably comparable to Alexander Fleming discovering penicillin!