Intel Futurist Steve Brown on the Future of Wearable Technology IBTimes UK

It may sound like an oxymoron, but small computing is getting big and big computing is getting small.

And it is going to be the combination of these two "mega-trends" which will be key to the success of wearable technology and lead to everything and anything around us becoming connected.

The continued miniaturisation of computing will allow us to turn anything into a computer while being able to connect directly to a vast cloud computing infrastructure will make these devices more powerful than ever before.

Intel's chief futurist Steve Brown believes that technology - and computing specifically - becoming smaller and smaller is "the key thing that is now allowing us now to think about computers becoming wearable."

Atomic level computing

Speaking at the first ever London Wearable Technology Conference, Brown believes we will soon be talking about computing at an atomic level.

Intel's current transistor technology, the Tri-Gate transistor, is built on a 22 nanometre (nm) process, but the company is already working on 14nm, 10nm, 7nm and 5nm technology and this is the point when "you start to mess with atoms."

Wearable Technology Today
What wearable tech looks like today

Wearable technology today is dominated by poorly-implemented smartwatches and rather clunky-looking headsets but this miniaturisation will hopefully create devices which are infinitely more sophisticated and powerful.

Brown said the jump from 22nm technology to 5nm technology is like comparing the Pentium 4 generation of PCs from 15 years ago - "the big behemoths with the fans" - to today's smartphone technology built on top of 22nm technology.

The move to ever smaller transistors will "enable us to do something dramatic, enable us to think about computers in a different way."

Computers merging with us

From the early computers which filled entire rooms to laptops which we could carry with us and smartphones which we can now carry in our pockets, the last 40 years have seen computing following an inexorable journey towards ultimately merging with us - an idea first voiced by renowned futurist Ray Kurzweil.

"As computer technology gets smaller and smaller, it gets lower physical size, lower cost and importantly lower power consumption, so that anything in that world can become a computer. That is the breakthrough point we are looking at," Brown believes.

While wearable technology is only made possible through the downsizing of computing technology, it will be made powerful thanks to computing getting "very, very big".

Big computing

Huge data centres and cloud computing infrastructure which delivers services over the internet, enables these wearable devices to deliver a much great range of features according to Brown:

"This is important in the world of wearables because many of these devices are not going to deliver great functionality just on their own. There are going to be connected and they are going to be connected to these massive computers with access to data and massive amounts of number crunching."

It will mean that you will feel as if you have the number-crunching power of a data centre in the palm of your hand - or more accurately on your wrist or in front of your eye.

Brown says that it will be vital for designers and engineers to incorporate the power of the cloud into their devices:

"The wearables that will be successful in the future are the ones that have the thought up front of how do I use all of that online computing capability, what are the services I create and wrap around that tiny device."