Guest post by: Peter Hortensius, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Lenovo

Wearables have been a hot topic recently. Components finally got small enough and cheap enough to make a watch with enough functionality to be useful to people. There are some really compelling benefits of wearables, and that’s why we’re seeing a market for them. People highly value having faster time to information.  Just think of the implications – a doctor gets notified on his wrist immediately when a patient’s condition changes or you get an immediate signal that your child needs a pickup. Skeptics would say is this faster communication necessary? They were the same people that doubted anyone would ever carry a phone around.

We are seeding the market with wearable devices. We jumped into the fray with our own smartwatches – the Moto 360, a full-featured smartwatch, and the Lenovo VB 10, a smartband that uses e-ink for basic functions and fitness tracking. While now feasible to produce for the mass market, many people are still reluctant to pay $300 or more for a wearable watch. We’re working on overcoming the hardware challenges to show users even greater value from these devices. To do this, we have to address screen size, battery life/recharging and individual connectivity. Here’s why:

  • Size. Wearables are small and have irregular shapes. Today’s technologies are optimized for rigid, regular shapes. Displays must be flexible, thin and light. And you have to be able to see and use them outside. Maybe they need to project to make a larger screen. 
  • Power.  Wearables are small, so there’s not a lot of room for a large battery, and since wearables aren’t rectangular, battery technologies need to be flexible and irregular. 
  • Charging. How do you charge it?  You probably aren’t going to want to take off your wearable every five hours to charge it.  Since the battery can’t get bigger, everything needs to be ultra low power.  Display, CPU, memory, storage, wireless.  Currently smartphones are driving technology, and the power required is larger than what a wearable battery can handle.
  • Connectivity.  Today your watch has to be tethered to your smart phone.  It can’t talk directly to the internet so the challenge is adding 4G to the watch while still fitting it within the size/power/charging constraints.

I’m confident we can solve the hardware challenges.  To me the real challenge to drive mass acceptance is the lack of “killer apps”.  I believe someone somewhere someplace will create the “killer app” for wearables just like entrepreneurs created the killer smart phone apps (SnapChat, WhatsApp, Spotify, Waze, Uber and more.). No one imagined those apps when smartphones started – that’s what compelled users to ditch their feature phones.   

At Lenovo Tech World on May 28th we will be showing the latest work and some future thinking from our labs on wearables. Giving our fans a chance to test some technology and apps that are not in the market yet is a great way for our R&T team to gather feedback and see what works. We hope these kinds of concepts will resonate and help advance this exciting category.