Wear do we go from here: Does wearable technology have a future?
Ever so subtly, yet ever so quickly, wearable technology has become surprisingly commonplace. In just a few short years, this ambitious and often bizarre market has grabbed many of us by the wrist, strapped itself to our faces and guided us into a world of technology that we never thought we’d see outside of a sci-fi film.
But whilst the market has grown massively in its short life-span and consumers across varying demographics have adopted the tech, we are only now starting to see whether this market growth will be sustainable.
Join us, as we take a deeper dive into some of the biggest wearable tech ventures, asking how they achieved their success and what might the future hold for them.
Fitness Trackers & Smart Watches
Arguably the greatest commercial success in wearable tech has been in the fitness tracking market. Health and lifestyle products, like the exceedingly popular Fitbit, have struck a chord with consumers of all ages looking for a high-guilt, quietly-competitive method of getting fit. A chord that played to the tune of $1.6bn in total revenue in 2017 and the sale of 15.3 million devices.
Their ease of use and wear, combined with the gamification of just walking loads has made the fitness tracker a standout piece in wearable tech; giving users a direct goal to follow and the positive gratification of achieving it day by day. People young and old are now competing for the lowest resting heartrates and least-disturbed slumbers, dominating their friends and family in the process, and they’re loving it! Where fashion, fun, functionality and affordability are concerned it’s easy to see why fitness trackers have been such a success.
The future in this market however lies with the smart watch. Fitbit in particular are aware of this shift, predicting a 20% decline in their revenue in 2018. It is clear that consumers are willing to part with cash for wrist-based tech but as time goes by they want their wearables to do more.
Whether the smartwatch can achieve its ambitious goal of replacing the wristwatch remains to be seen, but with the smartwatch market predicted to reach $32.9bn by 2020 the future is looking bright for smartwatches, even if fitness trackers may be starting their decline.
Another household name in wearable tech has been the GoPro camera. This teeny-tiny wide-angle-lensed bit of tech has revolutionised the home video market, making high-quality video recording accessible to anyone.
Long gone are the days of your dad pestering your family holiday with a cumbersome, tape recording video camera hoisted onto his shoulder. That same piece of memory capturing kit now fits in the palm of his hand, or strapped to his chest, or his head, or the dog.
The GoPro has blended creativity and portability into an easy to use cuboid. Striking on that most effective of selling points by making something that was once difficult, very easy. Anyone can now film quality, hands-free footage by just wearing their camera or attaching it to something.
The GoPro certainly made its mark on the stage of wearable and video tech but it will be interesting to see if it can keep up the pace in a fast-moving market, particularly after some disappointing sales returns in Q4 2017, achieving $334.8m of their $340.1m forecast.
Innovation can only get you so far, so whilst still being the market leader, GoPro will need to look at their pricing and product development in the coming years to keep their top spot.
We can’t speak of the successes of wearable tech without exploring one of its most high-profile failures, and Google Glass is perhaps the most high-profile commercial failure of all. But there may be a future for it…
Google’s tech-spectacles certainly meant well, with their revolutionary visual display projecting a screen before your very eyes, but they ultimately failed for all the reasons that other wearables have succeeded.
The first issue they faced is that they look quite silly. It was never going to be easy to implement the kind of technology in Google Glass with much subtlety and, although Google had a good go at it, the item itself was a bit too noticeable for many people to consider using them on a day-to-day basis.
The second major downfall was in their price point of $1500, which is truly eye-watering (do not cry on the Google Glass, it will break). Whilst wearable tech successes have focused on being relatively affordable, the Google Glass took a much more exclusive route. When you consider that most of the functionality of the Google Glass was available on virtually any smartphone, many consumers couldn’t justify the price.
Google Glass was pulled from general consumer production in 2015 but has since been reworked into Google Glass: Enterprise Edition, with a view to aiding productivity in factory work and industrial sector jobs.
The enterprise edition of Google Glass can provide invaluable information to workers on how to carry out tasks whilst they are undertaking them as well as scheduling, time-management and communications software. It sells itself as a ‘hands free device, for hands on workers’ and has already been adopted by multinational companies such as: DHL logistics and Samsung.
It goes to show that the original application for technology doesn’t have to be the be all and end all. By taking a step back and repurposing for industrial means, wearable tech may find it’s true calling.
Wearable technology has established itself quite handily thus far. But, in order to maintain profitability for years to come, the innovation must continue and manufacturers must keep opening their products up to new demographics and audiences. This likely means increasing the applications for wearable tech in industry, schools & healthcare or offering increasingly affordable products.
For the foreseeable future, the wearables market will continue to grow. As tech giants invest more resources into development and consumers become more open to using them in their day-to-day lives, the money will keep rolling in.