As a recent CNBC article discussed, the wearables industry today looks markedly different from what industry experts had been predicting it would be a few years ago. Well known wearable brands such as Jawbone and Fitbit have taken severe financial hits in recent months, and consumers’ fickle attention spans have resulted in lower device usage overall. But the cries about the wearables industry being dead seem premature at this point. In fact, the IDC still predicts that the wearables market will grow 20% this year.
So where does the industry currently stand? We see it as one in transition. The initial fad phase has worn off and wearables are no longer the trendy “nice to haves” in the marketplace. Wearable companies are therefore now being forced to reevaluate how to stay not only relevant but also necessary for today’s consumers. The key to success will be finding ways to fold wearable technology into people’s already existing day to day routines as opposed to adding to it. While a lot of the current news is focusing on fitness wearables, there is still a wider market that is serving a clear consumer need.
The trend of decreased overall usage was one that we saw back in October when we conducted a survey of 1,000 consumers with the independent research firm Research Now to examine the next hot market for wearables. While we saw that health & fitness were still cited as the primary reasons for owning a wearable device, other use cases were also identified.
We agree with industry experts that wearable companies need to focus on turning their devices into ones that consumers need to use on a regular basis. Even better if the devices can serve more than one function. One key to making the devices reliable and necessary is having accurate location technology built into the devices to ensure reliable usage.
One use case is personal emergency response technology. For consumers who suffer from various life threatening or chronic diseases, they rely heavily on the ability of their device to convey their location accurately to medical professionals when needed. Seniors who live alone are a good example. If they collapse at home and are alone, these devices can alert their medical team immediately for help. For those with health conditions that need to be constantly monitored such as diabetes, wearables also provide the ability to keep track of when blood sugar drops below a certain level and provide additional reminders needed to stay on top of those conditions.
Another use case is wearable devices for female safety. If you find yourself in a life-threatening situation and need help, Roar’s Athena product shares your location with your trusted personal network via mobile SMS alerts. This type of wearable device needs to have accurate location technology embedded so that your exact location is shared with your network.
In the same realm of safety devices, the child tracker market is still a big one as well. Companies such as Pomo House and Smartcom have developed wearables that serve as monitoring devices for parents to keep track of their children. As Forbes mentioned, this specific market is continuing to evolve and change and could potentially merge with the overall evolution of health and wellness trackers to help track children’s vital signs and behaviors.
Overall the current trends show that while some wearable companies have paid the price for not evolving with the market needs as they’ve changed, there is still a great opportunity for wearables to become an enriching part of consumers’ everyday lives.