Telecommunications antenna tower for radio, television and telephony with beautiful blue sky.

Being stuck in the 1970s is fine for fans of corduroy or mutton chops, but wearables need to move on from its reliance on older technology in order to reach the next level.

That was the message coming out of the GSMA Mobile 360 session in Brussels, according to Mobile World Live, where experts discussed advances that could break wearable devices free from their reliance on smartphone screens and their cellular connectivity.

David Maidment, ARM’s lead mobile strategist, said on a wearables panel at the Brussels event that wearable technology is suffering from its inability to decouple completely from its dependence on smartphones. Though many vendors are currently developing wearables with inbuilt 4G connectivity, Maidment warns that challenges loom as these new devices try to cope with cellular connectivity designed for the smartphone era, especially its heavy drain on battery life

However, with advances in networks that consume lower power this obstacle may soon be overcome.

LPWA can break the ties to old networks for wearables

Specifically, he flagged advances in Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks that could potentially wean wearables off their current dependence on smartphone era technology.

“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,” said Maidment. “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.”

Little Riot founder Joanna Montgomery, said it is annoying that connected wristbands like hers, which enable people to hear each other’s heartbeat, still must route through phones and their screen-based experience.

“We are stuck in the 1970s,” said Montgomery, who also sat on the wearables panel. “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.”

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

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