The global wearables market is predicted to reach the value of over US$30 billion in the next five years. Interestingly, the kid and pet wearables market is equally set to rise in value, to over US$1 billion.
According to a recent report by Research and Markets, the adoption of wearable health trackers has increased exponentially, as consumers are no longer limited to developed markets. As the cost of the devices decreased, vendors began to focus on developing countries to increase market share.
“The factors like growing IT spending, rising health concerns, growing popularity of smart wearables among consumers, an expanding smartphone user base globally, coupled with continuously declining prices of smart wearables are anticipated to propel demand for different types of smart wearables during the over the next six years.” – Research and Markets
This report highlighted key trends within the wearables market, firstly, that smartwatches enjoy maximum share. A potential area for growth is the move to look beyond smart watches, focusing on other wearables, like hearables, smart clothing or smart glasses. Interestingly, the kids and pets wearables market is predicted to see significant growth over the next few years. This demonstrates how the on-demand consumer is looking past self-tracking, to keep an eye on loved ones.
The wearables market is entering a mature phase in 2017. Big players like FitBit have actually suffered a drop in stock price of 70%, but overall the market is in a strong position. From Apple Health app to FitBit, you the consumer are now empowered to monitor you and your family’s health. According to the Digital Health Consumer Report of 2015, undertaken by Rock Health, digital health technology has been adopted by 80% consumers. This equates to around 4.5 billion people worldwide! With an influx of technology in the noughties, the fitness monitor evolved to track steps, sleep, heart rates, exercise, diet and more.With more fashionable options on the market and mobile manufacturers like Apple and Samsung, creating their own devices which incorporate more than just fitness tracking, there is plenty of potential in the wearables market.
The wearable industry now encompasses the entire sports universe, both with professionals and consumers alike. In our on-demand world, consumers relish the next advancement that will make tracking anytime, anywhere. This extends to the medical realm, kids, and pets tracking too!
What are the best wearables out there?
CES 2017 looked at this very question earlier this year. Their list is full of the latest wearable tech, ranging from fitness trackers, smart clothing to VR headsets.
Their number 1 pick, Garmin Fenix 5, Fenix 5s and Fenix 5x. Hailed as the ‘King of the outdoor watches’ by Wareable, the Garmin 5 is an upgrade to the already popular GPS sports watches Garmin Fenix 3 series. These 3 new models are designed to be more esthetically pleasing, and more conformable to wear. These changes do not make them any less hard wearing, with a new, tougher lens the new watches are more suited to life outdoors than ever before.
New last year, was the New Balance RunIQ, Android’s foray into the wearables market. Purposely made for runners, the watch is an understated, yet luxurious watch with a flexible strap for comfort.
Landing a few weeks ago, Bloomlife is a stick-on-tracker for pregnant women. Built to track contractions and measure any changes over the 3rd and final trimester, this smart pregnancy wearable is designed to take the unknown out of the final weeks of pregnancy. The accompanying app provides a real-time view of contractions, helps keep timing and shows you how your body pattern changes in the run-up to labor. The wearable pregnancy partner!
“Traditional approaches to clinical research are fraught with red tape when it comes to pregnancy”, says Eric Dy, Bloomlife. “Naturally, anything that is perceived to risk a mother and her baby remain strictly off limits.” – Wareable
Next in the CES wearable watch list is the HTC Vive Tracker. After that comes another fitness watch, the Misfit Vapor. Arguably, the most design-oriented fitness watch on the list, this smartwatch is taking on smart watch giants Apple and Samsung. Will it manage to threaten the market leaders? With concerns about software, it looks unlikely.
The Windows VR Headsets are set to make an impact this year. With Virtual Reality a trend to watch, the new Windows headsets are an impressive design with depth-sensing cameras and mixed reality features.
The last 3 wearables to watch on the CES list, are all sports or fitness tracking focused. The Casio WSD-F20 and Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR made big splashes at CES 2017. The Polar Team Pro Shirt also made waves this year. Designed for athletes, this example of connected sports clothing is reducing the need for the chest strap, by embedding a sensor into the back collar.
So, what does wearable technology mean for healthcare?
Wearable technology will be key to the digital transformation of healthcare. With advantages for patients, doctors, payers and more, wearables are helping to evolve a new healthcare delivery system. These devices are opening up the possibility of alternative methods of patient interaction, the collection of data and ultimately, change the way we deliver treatment.
There are 4 key factors to the use of wearables in healthcare. Firstly, the focus on disease prevention, not disease treatment. This is in line with the surge of Genomics. This field of science looks at the individual to map their genome. Genomic Medicine is an emerging field that is taking this mapping one step further, by using the information gathered to treat the individual. What’s exciting is the potential to prevent disease, by mapping genomes early and identifying potential future illnesses. This prevention would also bring down the cost of healthcare, as fewer treatments would be needed.
Wearable technology is also in line with this idea to personalize medical care. Why not use technology to track an individual’s health care needs, outside of the clinic. Diabetes, sleep disorders, obesity and more is already being tracked through the use of wearables. With start-ups, like Bloomlife (see above), the digital healthcare industry is booming. Tracking through wearables could also be key to the principal of Telemedicine, appointments by video. The increasing role of mobile technology in healthcare is positively influencing patient engagement. Tailored and interactive tech messaging engages and more importantly, activates the patient. A mobile engagement strategy can help providers influence consumer behavior and ultimately reduce costs.
With any new piece of medical technology, the need for regulation to adapt is huge. Possibly the biggest area of concern is the storage and safety of data. Data will be key in the era of the on-demand patient. Targeting, attaining and retaining the new informed patient will be key to a company’s success. There is another side to this data collection, though. Wither wearables, there is huge opportunity to gather real-time data on the move. How we manage this technology is still under discussion, for example, how would we integrate mobile health technology into the daily clinical practice? Transforming big data into crucial information to deliver actionable insights is a goal of many health care industry stakeholders.
Regulation will need to change. Regulatory bodies such as the FDA are pro-digital. Many are concerned that regulation will hinder innovation. The FDA and CDRH has established the Digital Health Program to encourage innovation in this area and provide regulatory clarity.
New players are disrupting this industry. As has been witnessed by many consumer-centric, digitally transformed industries, the relationship between technology providers and the end-users is often dysfunctional. Healthcare providers need to be central to tech research and development from an early-stage. Tech entrepreneurs need to forge partnerships with local health systems, to connect with healthcare leaders to ensure that their technology answers the needs of the industry. With healthcare eagerly seeking new opportunities to tackle chronic disease, digital health offers a range of potential solutions.
What is clear is that technology, like wearables, is playing a leading role in healthcare embracing consumerism, providing the consumer with multiple options that address their preferences and needs.
The discussion around wearable technology will be key to this year’s Digital Healthcare Transformation Assembly, taking place in April in Dallas. With sessions like Connected Wearable Health: How Digital Technology is Transforming Health and Social Care, the future of this technology in healthcare will no doubt be a key takeaway from the event.