LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 EUROPE: David Maidment, lead mobile strategist at ARM, predicted the development of Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks could potentially lessen the reliance today’s wearables have on the smartphone.

Maidment, speaking on a Wearables panel session at the Brussels event, said that while a number of vendors were developing wearables with inbuilt 4G connectivity, challenges could lie ahead with cellular connectivity “conceived for the smartphone era,”, meaning battery life would be significantly impacted on such a device.

He said that wearables had been held back in terms of decoupling completely for the smartphone, but this could change with networks being developed that consume lower power.

“Connectivity is an interesting point because it touches the way the user interacts with their device, so if I have to take my smartphone with me for my wearable to work, it will limit how I use it,” he said. “Narrowband IoT for LPWA, for example, will consume less energy and break the model, and decoupling the wearable from the smartphone makes sense in some use cases.”

Stuck in the 1970s
Also on the panel, Joanna Montgomery, founder of start-up Little Riot, which has developed a wristband enabling people to hear each other’s heartbeat on the device, described the fact that everything still has to connect to a phone as “annoying”.

“The whole point of our product is the fact that we don’t have to look at a screen,” she said. “The technology is still not there for the wearable to be standalone.”

Montgomery also had some strong views on the industry’s reliance on the screens, which is still the “starting point for everything”.

“We are stuck in the 1970s,” she lamented. “We are connecting things to the internet, but it all comes back to the screen. What good is it to automate everything if this is what it goes back to, an old piece of technology.”