Tool could open a new ecosystem of add-on applications for personal devices

If you had any doubt that wearable technology is here to stay, it may be time to reconsider.

At the recent South by Southwest conference in Austin, Sundar Pichai — Google’s SVP for Android, Chrome & Apps – announced that an SDK will soon be available to develop for Android wearables.

What does this mean? For hardware manufacturers looking to get into the wearable space, there’s now an easier path to bringing the product to market: instead of having to develop a proprietary operating system for their wearable device, developers can instead hook their sensors into a wearable version of the Android OS.

As a bonus, this could also potentially open up an entire ecosystem of add-on apps to their hardware device, making it far more attractive than forcing users to lock in to a proprietary system that may or may not have future support.

The release of the SDK, which is expected in the next week or so, is as sure a sign as any that Google is serious about expanding its reach in the world of wearables. (On the other hand, the long-rumoured Google smart watch – supposedly to be manufactured by LG – is still a no-show.)

The timing of Pichai’s announcement is interesting, coming hot on the heels of the announcement of Samsung’s new wearables, which have ditched Android for the company’s own Tizen OS. In the wake of such a notable defection, the release of the SDK might be a way of convincing the world that Android is still a viable choice for wearable devices.

It’s also interesting timing when you consider that the flurry of rumours around Apple’s possible entry into the smartwatch category has started to heat up like crazy. (In fact, prototypes are now appearing on the front cover of at least one Apple-focused magazine). By opening up the possibility of an extended world of Android smartwatches, Google might be hoping to take the wind out of Apple’s sails … should Apple actually be launching an “iWatch”, that is.

After the string of announcements at the Consumer Electronics Show and Mobile World Congress regarding new wearable devices from LG, Sony and Pebble, it’s pretty clear that more attention is going to be paid to wearables over the upcoming year.

Still to be determined, though:  how much of that attention is going to be paid by the actual consumers, once the devices are actually available to purchase?

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