With the announcement of the Apple Watch, Apple has once again bestowed on a struggling technology the imprimatur of credibility. Or, Apple says it’s cool now, so everyone should go buy one.
How big will the growth in wearables be in the coming year? More than a quarter of respondents in a recent survey of mobile consumers said they plan to buy some sort of wearable device in the next year (primarily smartwatches and smartglasses), with projections that overall sales will almost double in the next twelve months.
But I think a bigger indication is that, twelve months from now, my laptop will actually accept the word” wearables” without trying to auto-correct it! The industry is going to go from being a typo to being the next wave in how we gather data and engage with our devices.
The following is an overview of some of the key trends and developments we’re following in this segment.
Wearables and Health
Wearable technology is nothing new. Heart rate monitors involving a chest strap wirelessly communicating with a watch have been on the market for well over twenty years. And health and fitness applications will continue to drive the industry forward in much more innovative ways (just count the FitBit bracelets next time you’re at the grocery store… or in our own offices, where the weekly step count competition is fierce).
There’s a reason Apple made the Health app a centerpiece of the iOS8 launch. We believe that the ability to have a single health and fitness dashboard, integrating data from an array of wearable sources and tracking not simply exercise but weight, diet, sleep patterns, blood pressure and other lifestyle factors will become one of the “must-have” app solutions of the next couple years.
But while people expect to buy watches and glasses (mainly because this is all they’ve seen so far) we think the long-term growth will be in smart clothing.
For example, OMSignal has introduced a “Biometric Shirt” that reads and delivers heart rate, step count, breathing and fitness data, through a mobile app, whenever the shirt is being worn. While they are positioning the shirt as an athletic tool, the practical health benefits for monitoring patients both in and out of the hospital are clear.
But wearable technology doesn’t have to be solely about fitness. Check out the Visijax Commuter Jacket, which features a rechargeable battery pack powering red and white ED warning lights and car-style turn indicators that work with both hands on the handlebars. It’s an intuitive solution to a significant problem in urban areas.
One of the other key areas of innovation that goes hand-in-hand with wearables is wireless charging. When Apple ships the Apple Watch next year, it will come with a proprietary inductive charging solution, essentially allowing the product to take a new charge simply by being worn around.
This is a significant advance from current wireless charging techniques, which generally require placing the device on a pad or mat to charge it. So while you’re not technically using a wire, the larger limitation – leaving the device in a specific place for a specific length of time – is still in play.
But, as with anything, once people come to expect freedom of movement during charging, we’ll start to see the next generation of wireless charging technologies seep back into phones, tables and other devices that have always required a charging cable.
All this data has to go somewhere. And as we noted above, Apple is working hard to establish their own Health app as the default for iOS users. It is easy to envision a time in the near future where your health app is accessed as frequently as mail, text or maps.
And the provider of that app, the developer who claims the valuable home page real estate on your phone, will be able to deliver value not simply to the user but to health and fitness partners and providers.
So what’s on your wearable shopping list?