We will begin marking “Trend Tuesday” with a new, bi-weekly series authored by Tony Brice, Sabre Labs’ Sr. Principal of Emerging Technology. Each post will highlight an emerging technology trend our team is either researching, experimenting with or simply keeping an eye on with long-term potential impact to travel.

First trend up on the block? Wearable Devices.

Every now and then, the “Next Big Thing” truly turns out to have been the next big thing.  One could make the case that’s exactly what is beginning to happen with wearable devices, or ‘wearables.’

The concept of wearable devices has been around for decades.  We’ve seen them in science fiction movies and television shows for as long as most can recall (I still plan to be first in line for a communicator with universal translation capability like Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew in Star Trek: The Next Generation wore on the left breasts of their uniforms!).

The recent wave of wearable devices now on the market, though, is very real – sales of devices in the category are experiencing rapid growth and the long-term revenue potential is obvious.

Recent forecasts predict that almost 500 million wearables will be shipping annually by 2018. Sports and activity trackers from Nike, Fitbit, Jawbone and others currently account for over 60 percent of current shipments.  But the wave certainly doesn’t stop there.

Heating up are discussions about watches (Pebble and the rumored Apple iWatch), smart glasses   (Google Glass), cameras (Memoto), navigation devices (Garmin) and clothing (AiQ).  This just scratches the surface on a variety of new technologies that may eventually be referred to as wearable.  With as much momentum as the market is currently seeing, the prediction of 500 million wearable computers shipped annually in five years may look like a very conservative forecast just a couple of years from now.

Make no mistake, though – this trend isn’t just about the wearable devices. It’s about data-centric business ecosystems where data is collected and rendered in ways that are highly useful to us –both individually and collectively — via apps on our smartphones and elsewhere.  Beyond that, vast amounts of data from thousands or even millions of users can be aggregated – minus any personally identifiable information – and then mined to understand societal trends, create new capabilities and take advantage of new opportunities yet to be imagined.

While we may increasingly be selecting and wearing devices in the same decision-making process through which we today select a scarf or a pair of shoes, there’s so much more than fashion in the works.