The future of wearable tech is a world where our clothing and accessories will react to the world around us, in concert with us.
Watches, clothing, glasses – all sorts of clothing and accessories – will have sensors that help us adjust to the weather or sunlight, take us in the right direction, help us hail a cab or enable us to remember who we’re talking to without that embarrassing glance at their nametag.
Samsung is striving to create devices to help contextualize your environment, said Emily Becher, who heads up the global electronics giant’s startup accelerator, at this month’s Women Innovate Mobile #FoundersBreakfast at Lowenstein Sandler in Manhattan.
The predictions of how many “smart” devices we’ll be carrying, wearing or otherwise bringing along with us within the next 10 years are downright scary, Becher said. The revolution has already begun, with Google Glass and Samsung’s Galaxy Gear.
The Galaxy Gear smartwatch has sold more than 800,000 units, and Samsung went for the watch, because it’s something a great many people wear and it allows for relatively hands-free computing. You wear it on your wrist, instead of carrying it in your hand or having to have a pocket for it.
While we’ve become a very app-centric society, it’s the data behind the apps that’s important thing, Becher said – who you are, where you are, what you’re doing.
“Who sleeps with their phone in their bed?” Becher asked, scanning the room to see a couple dozen hands raised. “It’s so sad. We wake up and it doesn’t know us any better.”
That’s part of why the company, despite a strong working relationship with Google for its Android OS, has created its own smartphone operating system, Tism. These phones have nine sensors, and the goal is to make the connection between software and hardware seamless, Becher said.
The relationship with Google, the Tism OS and the company’s own “George Jetson Lab” will help Samsung bring us these smart devices. But Samsung recognizes that a lot of solutions will come from outside of the tech giants, and so started its Samsung Accelerator in New York City.
“Good ideas come from anywhere,” she said.
While Samsung’s “George Jetson Lab” allows the company to experiment with far-out and futuristic tech, the accelerator in New York and now Palo Alto helps find people looking to solve problems and bring them under the company’s umbrella.
Unlike a standard accelerator program, there’s no class of companies every few months. Samsung looks to find a company that is solving a specific problem – particularly those “on how we’re using data, consuming information,” Becher said.
How to tackle 3D printing on a scalable level, for example. Or, perhaps, how to improve battery life on our portable tech, suggested WIM founder J. Kelly Hoey.
“We talk to people one on one and let them build products,” Becher explained.
The accelerator decides which startups and ideas fit in well with the company’s overall mission and provides the infrastructure and overhead to allow the products to be built.
“Building a business is really, really hard,” Becher said. “Getting from inception of product to a scaled benefits is tough.”
New York came first because it has a more business-focused atmosphere than does Silicon Valley. “The early days of building technology investment in NY is different,” she said.
A more traditional accelerator, such as WIM’s, Hoey said, is more about choosing the right relationships. Money and office space dissipates quickly, when you’re in a six-month class and have to be able to stand on your own by the end. Those relationships are what will help you continue beyond that – whether with the idea you pursued in the accelerator or a new project.
WIM and many other accelerators are looking for the “big, scalable ideas,” Hoey said. “The Instagrams, Pinterests, Twitters – big, ‘audacious’ ideas.
“We’re looking for more meat than just pretty pictures or 140 words.”