Visitors don't have to walk far to find wearables at Computex, the big IT trade show taking place in Taipei this week. Dozens of companies from Taiwan and China are showcasing first-generation products -- a big change from last year when they got almost no attention.
The reason for this new attention is clear: Bullish industry projections put the wearables market at tens of millions of devices over the next few years. The market for smart wristbands was 1.6 million devices in the second half of 2013, and will rise to 45 million in 2017, according to Canalys.
If the analysts are correct, that could mean big business for the companies that eventually become leaders, so the race is on for a foothold before the market gets too crowded. But if this year's show indicates anything, it's that innovation is sorely lacking. The products on display were all variants of smartwatches and fitness trackers, although with a few twists on what's already available.
Acer Liquid Leap
Acer's smart wristband, the Liquid Leap, connects via Bluetooth to an Android phone to bring phone notifications and some basic audio controls to its tiny screen. At its heart, the Liquid Leap is a fitness tracker and includes a built-in pedometer and measurement of distance traveled and calories burned. It's due out in the third quarter but only with a companion smartphone, the Liquid Jade. Acer said it will consider selling the Leap on a stand-alone basis if there is enough interest.
Taiwanese manufacturer Netronix has developed its first smartwatch, which uses an e-ink display. This gives the device a battery life of between four and six days, at the cost of no color other than black and white. The 1.73-inch display, however, is a touchscreen. It works more as a companion device to a smartphone, and is able to display incoming messages and calls over Bluetooth connectivity. Netronix will start shipping the smartwatch in late August to its business clients, many of whom are in Europe. The product is made to be priced below US$100.
The S101 smartwatch from China's Galapad is one of the few on show that doesn't run Google's Android. It's currently running a proprietary operating system with basic features like a calculator, calendar access, messaging and phone controls. The 1.6-inch screen has a 240 by 240 pixel resolution, and the company says it will launch a new model with Google's new Android Wear operating system when it becomes available.
AiQ Digital Clothing
AiQ Smart Clothing, a company out of Taiwan, is showing off one of its latest solutions: a shirt that can monitor a user's vital signs. It works by weaving conductive fibers into the fabric that can help track the user's heartbeat. It's powered by an attachable battery that can also remotely upload the data to a device. The shirt can also be washed 100 to 200 times. AiQ said similar smart-clothing products will arrive later this year, although pricing and market will depend on its partners.
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