Telecom company executives are meeting in Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress, the largest annual trade show for the wireless industry. As Ivor Bennett reports from the show wearable technology is one of the big themes.
It may look harmless but kids beware. Put this on, and you may be followed. The Amigo smartwatch allows parents to track their children. A GPS sets off an alarm if the user strays from school, or pre-defined safe zones. It's made by Barcelona-based B-ON. Operations manager Ishay Shani. SOUNDBITE (English) ISHAY SHANI, VP OPERATIONS, B-ON, SAYING: "They know they're being tracked but actually tracking is maybe a scary word. We try to create a design that is fun for the kids, and also we find that they like the communication." Far from being just child's play, wearables is one of the headline acts at this year's Mobile World Congress. Big-hitters like Huawei, LG and HTC have all unveiled flagship models that can field calls, texts and monitor sleep. Huawei's UK director of sales Rhys Saunders says the sector is approaching a watershed moment. SOUNDBITE (English) RHYS SAUNDERS, UK SALES DIRECTOR, HUAWEI, SAYING: "It's a market that's very untapped. It hasn't really kicked in at the moment and there will be a certain tipping point where smartwatches are exactly what people need." SOUNDBITE (English) IVOR BENNETT, REUTERS REPORTER, SAYING: "Until now, the problem for smartwatches has been size. Too square, too bulky, they just didn't look good. But with their Urbana smartwatch, LG think they've cracked it. It has a leather strap, sleek design, and most important, it looks like a timepiece." This model can even hold a SIM card. USwitch analyst Rob Kerr says it won't be long until the handset becomes obsolete. SOUNDBITE (English) ROB KERR, USWITCH, SAYING: "They need to become more of a fashion accessory rather than technology focused. When that happens, people will want to wear them more, and within at least a couple of years, it'll be a choice between leaving your house with your phone or your watch, and your watch is more of an accessory so that will be your main device." Wearable shipments are expected to jump by over 150 percent this year, to 75 million devices. By 2018, it's expected to be 5 times that. Much of that could depend on Apple. The tech giant is launching it's first smartwatch in a matter of weeks. Device makers here are hoping some of Apple's marketing magic will benefit them too.