Forget Paris. Thanks to wearable tech, trendy accessories are likely to come from Silicon Valley these days.
Ok … Slight exaggeration. But no one can argue that wearable tech is hot. Products like the Jawbone UP and the Fitbit Force are two of the more popular connected devices you can strap to your body to track your activity levels. And just this week, Samsung unveiled its new fitness minded smart watch, the Gear Fit, at the Mobil World Conference in Barcelona.
Getting wearable tech on customers is great for data-centric companies because it allows them to collect and analyze data about usage, habits and activities. All of which could lead to developing better products and services for the customer, which could lead to greater market share for the company behind the product or service, which all leads to a nicer profit sheet at the end of the year.
Is it any wonder it's attracting so much attention?
Bright, Shiny and New
The big problem with wearable tech is this: Like any new toy, everyone wants to play when it's bright, shiny and new. But as its luster wears off, many people begin to forget about it. It becomes the thing left behind in the draw or on the shelf.
A recent survey by Endeavour Partners and published in its white paper, Inside Wearables: How the Science of Human Behavior Change Offers the Secret to Long-Term Engagement makes this point. It highlights that more than half of the individuals survived no longer use their wearable devices — and the vast majority of those stopped using the device within six months. Without long-term, sustained use, it’s difficult for any company to develop a roadmap to profitability with the data generated by wearable tech.
The white paper hits on several points that cast a shadow on wearables enduring engagement. But I think two are key.
- The device has to provide a positive impact on the user's behavior: Just monitoring how many steps someone walks is not enough. The user has to be able to use that data to prompt changes in behavior in some way, or he will inevitably lose interest and stop using the device.
- We have to want to wear wearable tech: This is where I see the biggest gap in the market. Wearable devices have to, in fact, be wearable. They can't just make sense for us to wear, but we have to actually want to wear them. That is one of the biggest drawbacks to something like a Jawbone or Fitbit activity tracker. It’s easy enough to slip on your wrists when you work out, but it's generally not something one might wear all the time. Samsung's new Gear Fit takes a step in the right direction because it has a more refined look. But it's also a smart watch, and though it looks more finished, it still has a very techie look to it. That's not everyone’s cup of tea.
Taking it Up a Notch
Several companies are working on wearable tech that's designed to be far less noticeable or geeky, but still provides the wealth of data that companies want to get their hands on. The Netatmo June line offers a wearable sensor to track your sun exposure. It looks like a gem on either a bracelet or broach.
Another company, Cuff, wants to build GPS enabled jewelry with a strong eye to design and fashion.
CSR is also working on its own line of connected jewelry based around Bluetooth low power technology. The technology is integrated into devices that have been designed to look like modern accessories which would blend with everyday apparel.
Though the market for wearable devices is rather large, there is no doubt that the market for the data is where companies see the true value.
If users are leaving their wearable devices on the shelf, then they are not capturing data and therefore are not creating value for the companies behind the products. As the market matures and the product designs become more sophisticated, there is no doubt companies will find a winning solution.
They will find ways to ensure that users feel the need and desire to dawn their devices every day and keep the data stream flowing.
Title image from Samsung.
About the Author
Dana Blouin is a Ph.D candidate and researcher at SIIT—Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand, where he is conducting research in the areas of the Internet of Things, wireless sensor networks and ubiquitous networking.
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