Wearable Technology

According to a survey by PwC’s Consumer Intelligence Series, 20% of American adults already own a wearable device and the adoption rate, which is on par with tablets in 2012, is quickly expected to rise.  Is wearable technology the future?  Throughout the past few years, I have seen more and more people wearing these gadgets and wondering what makes them so wanted, besides the fact that they are just a new technology.

According to Tractica, a research group, “the wearables market in 2015 experienced ups and downs, but, overall, the market continues to be promising, with fitness trackers and smart watches being the main drivers of volume and growth.”  Unit sales for fitness trackers have more than doubled since 2014.  What sparked the sudden interest in keeping track of steps taken in a day or heartrate during athletic activities?  For years the US was known to the world as the fattest country in the world, and this was based in truth; we’re known to have the highest percentage of obese people on earth.  Over the past decade, there has been a steady push to change that stereotype and to become more physically fit.  The use of protein supplements and health drinks has grown as well.  The one thing that I find most shocking is the use of wearable technologies that often have the capabilities to track bodily functions, let alone just smart watches in general.

Shipments of wearable devices spiked from 35.5 million in 2014 to 85 million in 2015.  This is an astonishing 139% increase in just one year.  These shipments are expected to jump to 560 million by 2021.  This of course means revenue will increase as well, from $12.3 billion in 2015 to $95.3 billion in 2021.  The Apple Watch was the largest contributor to tech revenue last year at almost $5.5 billion.  According to Tractica, Apple Watch is expected to become the most popular watch in the next 12 to 18 months.

Sports and fitness are the main focuses and purposes of wearable tech right now, but some sources say that health reports are not far away.  As hardware becomes smaller and with advancements in sensor technology, “smart algorithms will help bring wearables into the forefront of the fight against chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.  Expect to have your smart watch warn you about a stroke or heart attack, days in advance, which is when wearables will start to be taken much more seriously,” said Aditya Kaul, Tractica’s research director.

According to the PwC survey 53% of millennials and 54% of early adopters say they are excited about the future of wearable tech.  Among the top three potential benefits:

  1. Improved safety: Ninety percent of consumers expressed that the ability for parents to keep children safe via wearable technology is important.
  2. Healthier living: More than 80 percent of consumers listed eating healthier, exercising smarter and accessing more convenient medical care as important benefits of wearable technology.
  3. Simplicity & ease of use: Eighty-three of respondents cited simplification and improved ease of technology as a key benefit of wearable technology.

This is incredible.  The use of such devices has caught like wildfire.  Some college students have even started wearing their devices to practice in order to monitor their progress during the season.  But what is the downside?  According to TechRepublic, in a survey done by Endeavor Partners, these wearable technologies fail to keep their users interest for more than a few months.

A survey of 6,223 US adults revealed that one in ten consumers age 18 and over owns a modern activity tracker such as Jawbone, Fitbit, Nike+ Fuelband or Misfit Wearables. Yet, more than half of the survey’s respondents said that they no longer use their activity tracker, and a third of those stopped using the device within six months of receiving it.

This is understandable.  For those first few months there is a motivation factor that comes with owning your new toy.  You get out and run but you don’t push yourself hard enough for the numbers to change very much.  You don’t seem much improvement so after a while of getting the same numbers you get bored with it and it ends up in the bottom of your drawer.

Manufacturers use this kind of information to learn how to make their product more enticing.  Three of these things are habit formation, social motivation, and goal reinforcement.  This technology can help the process of habit formation more effective and efficient by directly addressing elements of the habit loop (cue, behavior, reward) according to TechRepublic.  The social connections will also help people be more motivated as they can share their goals and accomplishments.  Finally, consumers will keep using their device if they feel it is helping them make progress towards their defined goals.  These devices are a constant reminder to stay connected with your goals and accurately monitor progress data.

One thing is for sure: as manufacturers continue to make advances in wearable technology, more people will start to use them as interest grows with the quality of said devices.