There was much talk of wearable technology in the early part of this decade and in what can only be described as a media frenzy. Google launched its hotly awaited Google Glass in 2012. It was everywhere, Diane von Furstenberg used the product on the catwalk at New York Fashion Week, while Virgin Atlantic tied up with the brand for flight crew to check in passengers on selected trans-Atlantic flights. Whilst available to a selected group of subscribers, it unfortunately never made the shelves but set the pace as the pioneer.
The sale of smartwatches and trackers such as the Jawbone UP and Fitbit Flex accelerated in 2013 and things started to evolve rapidly. Then in 2015 we saw the launch of the first Apple Watch. While there has been commentary on the demise of the whole category with Jawbone already defunct, smartwatches are still the only product where we’ve seen continued sales and enhanced innovation, with luxury brands like TAG Heuer launching a range of Google Wear OS devices. According to Statista, global wearable technology sales in 2018 were 123 million units, with trackers making up 15 million and smartwatches 80 million. Watches are still growing faster than any other category and forecasted by CCS Insight to reach 142 million units worldwide in 2019 and a staggering 260 million units by 2023.
There’s little doubt we’ve come to a point where the market is less about the consumer tech and gadgets that we might see in store and rather more about the application of wearable technology – driven by trackers and smartwatches – into other fields such as health and wellbeing that are having a real and valuable impact on people’s lives.
Wearables are evolving. Motiv’s smart ring won Breakout of the Year at the Wearable Tech Awards 2018, but the jury is still out on its success. Looking at the exhibitors at 2019’s Wearable Technology Show, it indicates that there’s more than just smartwatches, but many innovations are being driven by health and wellbeing.
Looking at the impact automated insulin delivery has on patients and parents of children with severe diabetes, WELT is well documented and was one of the most talked about pieces of tech from CES 19. The new SMART belt from Samsung, launched at IFA 2018, can help tackle one of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century, rising obesity. The belt can monitor weight, walking speed, sitting duration and eating habits. Another interesting application of wearable tech is Quell 2.0. This over the device wearable from Neurometrix uses advanced neurotechnology to stimulate sensor nerves sending neural pulses to the brain and blocking pain signals. The device is designed to block multiple types and sources of pain.
Innovation in wearable technology is as big as manufacturers dare it to be and wearable tech used today has evolved to be practical and convenient to make our daily lives more efficient. For resellers it’s interesting to note that it’s claimed that one in ten wearable owners have two or more devices, with those who don’t currently own a wearable stating that they are in the market for one. Research shows that fitness devices and smartwatches are equally wanted to aid in health, detect calorie intake, assess overall fitness and provide stress measurements.
Advances in nanotechnology, batteries and microprocessors have meant the devices can be small and lightweight. It therefore looks to me like the future of wearable tech is in the sublime not the ridiculous. Tech companies that succeed will be the ones that understand consumer behaviour and are solving real world customer needs or problems, rather than just focusing on ‘what’s possible’. Linked to real time data and tapping into human needs, its potential now does seem potentially revolutionary, with applications in health being a particular game-changer for the wearables category.
This decade’s most hyped of technologies has found its groove, enabling not just athletes to monitor wellbeing and lifestyle but for all manner of consumers and in a variety of exciting form factors.
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