Google Could Bring Back Wearable Computers, But What About The Data?

Android-based operating system glasses with a 3G or 4G data connection might be on the list of must-haves for techies by some time midyear. Reports put Google behind the project, but it's unclear whether Motorola Mobility patents contribute to the hardware device or the exploratory focus.

For a cost of between $250 and $600, consumers could have an option to purchase the small-screen glasses with motion and GPS sensors designed by Google. The Los Angeles Times cites anonymous Google employees familiar with the project.  

Will these devices give online advertising another screen or expand the ability to collect data? Seth Weintraub at 9 to 5 Google first noted the lab and wearable technology in December.

As more wearable devices come online, companies will need to become more sensitive to data collection. During the OMMA Data & Behavioral conference in New York on Wednesday, Marc Groman, executive director and general counsel at the Network Advertising Initiative, commented on privacy and data collection. He used a data-train metaphor to convince attendees to self-regulate their data collection practices or risk derailing the train and halting innovation for all.

Google isn't the only company experimenting with wearable computing technology. Patents filed by Apple and Microsoft allude to wearable computing or display projects. Similarly, a patent updated in February 2012 by Digimarc describes next-generation wearable devices -- from cameras to displays on eyewear.

The Digimarc patent calls out the practice of advertising vs. data collection: "As with Google, collection of raw data from the system may prove more valuable in the long term than presenting advertisements to users."

Google's glasses would further the trend that electronic companies like Infineon Technologies tried to ignite in early 2000. In its 2004/2005 winter collection, sportswear manufacturer O'Neill Europe unveiled in Munich a wearable electronics product. Jointly designed with Infineon the snowboard jacket, dubbed The Hub, was made to withstand freezing and harsh environments.

Woven into The Hub snowboard jacket were electronically conductive fabric tracks that connect the chip module to a fabric keyboard and built-in speakers in the helmet. The module contained a MP3 player with Bluetooth capabilities that the snowboard could use to control music and a mobile phone. It was part of a movement by the electronics and clothing industry to develop smart-fabrics and interactive textiles. At the time, other companies were working to include this type of technology in the walls of buildings and in carpets. 

During the next five years, it is estimated the market for wearable wireless devices in sports and health care will grow to 169.5 million devices in 2017 -- up from 20.77 million in 2011, a CAGR of 41%, according to ABI Research.

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