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Disruptive Technology: a History of Wearables

When sportswear giant Nike relaunched their Back to the Future inspired self-lacing sneakers back in 2016, 80’s sci-fi fanatics and tech lovers the world over declared it as proof that the future had finally arrived. Or, at the very least, the future according to Marty Mcfly.

But sneakers – however cinematically pertinent – are really the tip of the technological iceberg when it comes to wearables. The wearable technology market has rocketed in recent years, with 102 million units were sold in 2016 and 560 million forecast to sell by 2021 (Smart Insights, Nov 2017) – and tech powerhouses like Apple and Google show little sign of slowing down when it comes to easing the symbiosis between consumers and their tech through appealing and useful wearable experiences.

In the last ten years alone, we’ve seen the launch of Google Glass, Fitbit and Oculus Rift – and the industry in general is evolving far more rapidly than ever before, creating high-tech solutions for everyday life that feel uniquely connected and powerfully futuristic in their ability to blur the lines between person and product.

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Because historically, technology has felt somehow ‘other’. It’s something we’ve plugged in, fired up or switched on to temporarily amplify and enhance certain aspects of our lives, or to solve problems. Conversely, wearable tech feels more like an integration between man and machine; all the more powerful because of its ability to percolate into the background, becoming part of us and working autonomously behind the scenes – even when we’re not.

It’s hardly surprising that at Starling, we’re fascinated by the potential of technology to solve problems. We’re interested in how technology shapes – and is shaped – by our society and its needs, and the game-changing products that are borne out of this reciprocal relationship (we’re a tech company building a current account run entirely from your mobile phone, after all!)

Those interests definitely affect the decisions we make at Starling – and they’re why we’ve racked up a few ‘firsts’ during our relatively short time on the market! We were the first of the new fintech banks to launch Apple Pay and Android Pay, as well as the first bank in the UK to allow customers to add their Starling card to their Apple Wallet straight after creating their account – no need to wait for it to arrive in the post. We also recently partnered with the fitness tracker Fitbit, who have just launched their new Ionic model that allows you pay easily from your wrist, on-the-go, using Fitbit Pay.

There’s more in the mix, too. Our technology platform, APIs, and Starling Payment Services gives us the opportunity to connect to some of the world’s biggest technology companies, potentially allowing customers in the future to make payments with jewellery, clothing, and via messenger apps. We can’t reveal much yet – but watch this space!

We’re pretty excited to play a part in the rich and decades-spanning narrative of wearable tech, so in honour of this milestone, we’d like to take you on a journey through its colourful recent history (no DeLorean required).

So what’s your take? Where do you see tech taking us over the next 20 years? We’d love to hear your thoughts on Twitter!