Wearables need to become independent of smartphones, find alternative power sources, ride the flood of data, and tap new sources of innovation, says an exec from a startup accelerator.
Just as the PC, Internet, and smartphone have changed how we work and live, so the Internet of Things (IoT) will change our interactions with each other and our environment. However, the IoT also brings with it four challenges to our existing networks and infrastructures.
Infrastructure is an unsexy topic when compared to Google Glass or wearable biometric sensors that go on like temporary tattoos. But for the IoT to spring into the mainstream, innovations at the core technology level are essential.
Nix the smartphone
For starters, if the IoT market is to reach its full potential, the tether to the smartphone has to be cut. People simply don't want to take their phones, especially large form-factor smartphones, with them everywhere they go. While the smartphone is required, the wearable is a mere smartphone accessory.
Wearables need to have their own communication capabilities to break the connection to the phone and connect directly to the cloud. Moreover, these smart devices will communicate with one another directly, not just through the cloud, and certainly not through two smartphones.
To become truly useful, wearables also need an all-important GPS. Imagine a watch that not only can tell how many steps you've taken, but how far you went with those steps, and if those steps were on flat ground or climbing stairs.
Plug into alternative power
Tomorrow's wearables need to get their power through alternative means such as wireless charging at a distance, energy harvesting, solar, or the wearer's motion. They also needed flexible batteries or other forms of energy storage in commercial quantities and prices -- and a GPS system that's orders of magnitude less power hungry than current solutions.
These new innovations aren't the stuff of late night sci-fi. These technologies are in development right now.
Ride the data flood
Today's infrastructure, from the wireless carrier to the datacenter and all points in between, is inadequate for the amount of data that IoT systems will generate as they become mainstream. It's not simply the pipe from the devices to the cloud, it's the processing and storage of all that data in the cloud.
The current architecture of the datacenter is simply ill-equipped to deal with the heterogeneous nature and sheer volume of data that will be generated and needs to be processed. Let's not forget the challenge of providing the energy to run these enormous datacenters.
Tap innovation sources
This innovation will be created in a multifaceted approach. The current industry leaders will do their part, but will be largely limited to incremental improvements to what they already do. The vast majority of these innovations are going to be driven by brilliant entrepreneurs and the rare industry leader who is willing to take risks and try new funding business and innovation models.
— Angel Orrantia is business development and marketing director of SK Telecom Americas' Innovation Accelerator, a Silicon Valley-based seed fund and accelerator for startups.