What We Didn’t See From Wearables At CES

Editor’s note: Steve Caldwell is co-founder and CEO of the cross-platform wearable analytics and tools company, Strap

At CES this year, we saw everything from stickers that tracked heart rates on babies to virtual reality headsets that didnt make you throw up. Talk of the Apple Watch took a backseat, but wearables were a hot topic in sunny Las Vegas. Back in the drizzly reality of winter in Cincinnati, we’re contemplating how wearables will seriously make the leap in 2015.

Wearable devices are spawning like crazy right now, and the valuable sensors inside of them are improving. Intel’s Curie module promises to make wearable devices more powerful. The industry is building the right hardware for something amazing. But what is that ‘something amazing?’

How will wearable devices truly change the way we live? In exchange for strapping on the next latest and greatest gadget, wearables need to solve daily problems for people in a way our smartphones can’t. We’re starting to see applications think “outside of the phone” in a couple of ways, and with giants like Facebook and Twitter clamoring to get their apps finished before a spring launch of the Apple Watch, we’re guaranteed to see some exciting applications.

Christopher Mims from WSJ thinks that push notifications will be the reason the Apple Watch takes off and will open up an “augmented reality” where wearables know where we are, who we are, how we’re feeling (potentially) and serve us up the right timely notification. This video from Android Wear shows great use cases for wearables like receiving directions and dictating texts. We’ve seen multiple examples that being “hands free” is the ultimate use case for wearables; therefore, putting them into the hands of “deskless” workers makes the most sense.

We’ve collaborated on enterprise use cases such as monitoring a construction worker’s health and alerting them and their management if it seems like they might be in danger of falling asleep, so they are taken down before an accident can happen. And that same use case has been applied to drivers who might fall asleep at the wheel: They get a physical “tap” from their wearable to warn them to pull over before they put themselves in danger.

Evernote is a company that we’ve seen a great wearable application from already that allows users to jump between handhelds and their wearable and continue the Evernote experience, uninterrupted. Pebble’s devoted developer community has produced scores of new applications. We’re getting there, but the “wearable revolution,” like a lot of things, is a numbers game. The more applications we build, the closer we’ll get to finding the apps that change the game.

Sleep apps are one step of the way there. Apps like James Fowler’s Morpheuz take something wearables uniquely do — monitor our sleeping patterns — and do something useful with it: Wake us up when we’re in our lightest stage of sleep so we wake up feeling rested. We need to take the sensors on wearables, take the data, take what’s unique to a wearable, and make it indispensable to users. We’re close. We need the right application to get us all the way there.

One place the killer app of 2015 could emerge from is the collegiate hackathon. There are dozens of them coming up, and we’re anticipating the desire to build apps on wearable platforms to skyrocket this year. We’ve seen pretty creative concepts from young kids already, like the two teens in the UK who came up with the idea for KipstR (a wearable that starts recording your TV shows if you fall asleep during the program) as part of Virgin Media’s “Switched on Futures” initiative.

It was amazing to see the creativity in the actual wearables that people were building at CES. This will be the year we see an application that will prevent these wearables from collecting dust in drawers.