Vancouver had its very first Wearable Wednesday, a global event hosted by Wearable World, last week. With Wearable Wednesdays in cities like San Francisco, New York, and London, this is one more sign that Vancouver is building a strong community around wearable technology and the Internet of Things. I’m really excited to see these kinds of events making their way throughout the city – for too long, Vancouver has probably been best (only?) known as a Web design hub, but there’s so much more to the tech scene in the city. Vancouverites are making things happen.

The Wednesday event last week focused on the state of the “wearable economy” and included panelists from a number of local companies here in Vancouver:

Mike Morrow – CEO of CommandWear
Nikola Obrknezev – Technology & Partnerships Lead of Fatigue Science
Shane Luke – Chief Product Officer at Recon Instruments
Liz Dickinson – CEO of MIO
Ashish Syal – Principal Engineer at the CTO Office of Sierra Wireless
Bayan Bennett – Lead Research and Hardware Engineer of Vandrico Inc.

The turnout was great – over 170 people showed up. Talking to the organizers, they had originally only planned for 70. Lots of local startups building wearable technology, major consulting firms, and a handful of VCs looking to invest that same night were in attendance. And the session was great – the discussion ranged from speculation around why Nike has stepped away from the wearables business (or have they?), to the factors that will drive product success in the market (design, design, design!), to new wireless technologies that are making the Internet of Things a reality (ubiquitous low-bandwidth PAN-style wireless).

There was also discussion about the role that software platforms would play in the development of wearable technology. The buzz around wearables is all around the hardware (is it lightweight? How fast is the processor? What resolution is the display?), but wearables will only reach mass adoption with the right software, and here are three reasons why:

1. It’s not about the hardware, it’s about access to data.
Content, content, content. Over time, the hardware will get better, but without access to data, all of that technology will be for nought. Software (and the platforms from which data are served) is the vital link that turns wearable technology from “just” being very expensive toys to augmentations that provide people with access to information at the right time and the right place.

2. Killer apps drive mass adoption.
Even if the hardware gets better, it is all about what the technology will enable people to do that captures the hearts and minds of people. The “app economy” forged by Apple (iOS), Google (Android), and others is a testament to the impact that software can have on device experience. When most consumers go to the store today to look for a mobile phone, they’re probably asking “What apps can I get?” and not “How fast is the processor?”

3. Software evolves much faster than hardware.
Software has the ability to change much more rapidly than hardware — we’ve become accustomed to software releases on a frequent basis (and may actually even consider software suspect if it isn’t updated regularly), but hardware releases are often highly anticipated because they may only happen once a year. While the hardware that makes wearable tech deployable may change relatively infrequently, additions/improvements/changes to software are poised to become a way that competitors and consumers alike will distinguish what one wearable device does better than the other.

As wearables make their way into industrial and enterprise settings, software platforms are likely to have an even greater impact on wearables in those environments than they do in the consumer world. I’m looking forward to more wearables in our future… and keeping a close eye on the software platforms that will power them.