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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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The Wearable technology sector consists of computing equipment and electronic technologies that can be comfortably worn on the body. These devices perform scanning and sensory capabilities which provide bio feedback, real-time-health, motion and tracking of physiological activity. Examples of wearable technology include smart watches, e-clothing, smart jewellery, intelligent eyewear and bio-sensing contact lenses. There has been a rapid increase in the number of wearable devices being introduced in recent times with far reaching influences in the fields of fitness, medicine, education, transportation and entertainment. In spite of wearable technology being one of the most upcoming trends in the digital world today the ideology behind this sector has been prevalent for many years.

Major changes have taken place in the wearable technology industry in the past couple of years. Since 2014, the consumer opinion towards wearable tech has taken a positive, upward shift. More and more consumers agree that it helps to exercise better (82%), enhance personal accountability (69%) and improves productivity at work (63%) and home (65%). (PwC, 2014)

Men are more likely to own smart watches and smart glasses as compared to women, and the demand for wearable technology seems to decline with age. Hence, young adults (aged between 35-49 are more likely to own smart watches as opposed to senior citizens, and seem to be invest the most in wearable technology.

There are five noticeable segments in the wearable technology sector:

1) Sports and Fitness: Largest segment dominated by Fitbit contributing to 68% of the sales in the US in 2013 (Danova, 2014)

2) Hearables: the first basic application of the Bluetooth system established the principles of this segment. Today the leader in this industry is Beats Electronics, recently procured by Apple for three billion dollars.

3) Medical and Assisted Living: A few years back there was no market for smart health devices but the growing concern from consumers to monitor their health more effectively has seen a rise in this segment.

4) Kids and Pets: Demand for baby monitors, child trackers and animal trackers is expected to rise within the next five years with parents increasingly wanting to live a more connected and integrated life with their kids and pets.

5) Fashion: By 2020 this segment is expected to expand and gain a larger market share as smart clothing becomes more popular.

HOW WEARABLE DEVICES WORK?

Wearable Technology follow a four-step pattern in order to operate: Understand, Alert, Engage and Entertain, and Protect.

The first step for the device is to understand the data that is being keyed into the device, and then alert the user by generating notifications and signals. The third step of the process is to engage and entertain the user through the interactive functions of the device, and finally protect the user by ensuring that their needs are satisfied in a secure manner. Therefore, the four-step process is followed by wearable devices in order to deliver the services to users.

CONSUMER PROFILE

Consumers for smart wearables are defined as ‘Millenials', aged between 18-34 and born between the 1980s- early 2000s, and are said to have various characteristics such as ‘confident' and ‘protected'. As per the Millenial usage chart, Millenials have a likelihood of 55% of owning a wearable device, and 67% likely to use the product with excitement. (PwC, 2014)

Forms of Wearable Technology

Fitbit

Fitbit Inc. is one of the most impressive companies regarding wearable technology, with sales of 4.8 million connected health and fitness devices in the first quarter of 2016 (fitbit.com, 2016). The company was the pioneer by introducing their first device which is developed to track health in 2009, consisting of eight different products varying in terms of price ranges and capabilities.

Sleep Tracker

The device measures sleep through sensors, accelerometers, which analyze motion, along with the direction and speed of that motion (Rettner, 2014). Sleep and health are said to have a direct relationship, and by detecting motions during sleep, the device informs wearers about how long they slept and quality of their sleep. In order to ensure the wearers' ideal sleep time, the device has pillow time, bedtime reminders and nudges to turn off the television (Swah, 2016).

Breathing Sessions

Fitbit also provides wearers with customized guided breathing sessions based on their heart rate as breathing is an indicator of heatlh. People can choose from two or five-minute breathing sessions which give biofeedback and assist them to fix each inhale and exhale (Fitbit, 2016).

Activity Tracker

The smart device has built-in heart rate sensor which enables it to receive continuous information including heart rate, calories burned and distance travelled. It also detects any activity from running to yoga. The device also records any continuous, high-movement activity last more than 15 minutes and hence it automatically stores it in wearers' exercise history (Fitbit 2016). Fitbit also detects when people are moving up or down in elevation (Fitbit 2016). Fitbit pairs with the wearers' smartphone with GPS capabilities in order to indicate pace and duration of their activities as well as plot routes.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch is one of the most adopted and significant wearable smart technologies as it has been in the market for two years. Apple Watch pre-ordered by 957,000 customers in the United States on the first day it was available for sale (Minney, 2015). Today, Apple sells an average of 20,000 units of watches a day in the United States (Arends, 2015).

The touch-screen of the Apple watch consists of sensitive, flexible Retina Display. On its back, there are sensors which enable Apple Watch to be one of the advanced wearable device. The watch has four sapphire lenses with infrared and visible-light LEDs with photodiode sensors (Strange, 2014). Lastly, Apple Watch has the Taptic Engine which provides wearers with feedback (Gibbs, 2015).

The Features

Notifications

Apple Watch allows iPhone users to receive notifications from their phones including messages, phone calls, mails and calendar.

Health

Apple Watch differentiates from smart devices which track activity by counting calories and steps: It is rather concerned with health as a whole. Apple Watch has three rings in Activity application: The Stand, Exercise and Move. ‘The Stand' sends notification for the hour in order to urge the wearer to stand up if he has not physically moved in an hour (Filipowicz 2016). Secondly, the exercise ring measures any activity equivalent to a walk or more, while the device checks heart rate and movement data in order to determine the activity. Lastly, the move ring notifies the wearers about calories, total steps and distance. Apple Watch aims to trigger people to move more by indicating their daily activities.  Additionally, Apple Watch allow its' wearers to track their sleep patterns and help them to provide insights about improving sleep quality.

Everyday Essentials

Apple Watches ease the daily life of wearers through a significant number of free applications. For example, Reminders, Weather, News including BBC and CNN; travel applications including translator, Google Maps, Uber, City mapper and various applications to check flight information are included.

Apple Pay

The application allows wearers to make payments through the watch. Once the application is downloaded and identify their credit or debit card information, it is sufficient to make transactions through Apple Pay.

Entertainment

Apple Watches includes the radio feature, providing access to over 100,000 stations; it can detect the song the wearer wonders; can be used to play brain-training games such as Trivia.

Home Control Accessories

Apple Watch wearers are able to have control of their HomeKit devices all from their wrist by purchasing ‘Home' application, which is compatible with HomeKit and works with accessories. Wearers can now control media including sound systems, television and radio, lightings and temperature of the home from a different location.

STATUS OF DEVELOPMENT

Smart accessories present profitable growth opportunities for electronics manufacturers [and] they offer real-time assistance to wearers (Euromonitor, 2014). Smart devices, especially Apple Watch and Fitbit suggests great convenience and benefits to the wearers. As Apple Watch have applications which are highly useful for health, these devices are hugely adopted by people (Liu et al., 2011). The technology seems to develop and improve with new software. In comparison to Apple Watch Series 1; Apple Watch Series 2 have increased display resolution, processor and new features such as water resistance. Fitbit improves the models' features since it has launched in the market. The first model counts steps walked and calories, floor climbed and sleep; today, advanced Fitbit models have various features such as calendar alerts, call and text notifications, heart rate sensors and more. Additionally, current smartwatches are still some way short of being a package of design and features that could become socially acceptable. (Euromonitor, 2014)

Importance of Smart Devices

Wearable technology is extremely extensive in its entity and each have their own levels of awareness and its own context of usage amongst consumers. However, smart devices tend to be the most prominent form of wearable technology. There are four major segments that are a part of wearable technology:

1. Sports and fitness: e.g. Fitbit bands, Garmin bands, Misfit

2. Smart Watches: e.g. Apple watch, Pebble watch, Sony smart Watch

3. Smart Clothing: e.g. Sensoria socks, Polo tech shirt

4. Healthcare wearables: e.g. Google smart contact lenses, Quell relief

Awareness levels of the products:

According to statistics from Google Trends, it is evident that the levels of awareness differ for various wearable products. The graph highlights smart watches as a clear winner in the race, indicating that they have growth and awareness of 86%, followed by smart glasses at 69%, arm and wrist bands at 55% and thereafter headgear, jewellery, footwear and e-textile. (Appendix 4)

Cost & Limitations

There are various costs that incur for marketers and consumers in the process of adopting wearable technology. Marketers may have high investment and setup costs as wearables are expensive as they are high-tech products. Firms also incur costs in training personnel and familiarizing them to the product in order to create efficiency in the workforce. Research and Development costs also tend to be high as the industry is dynamic and rapidly evolving, thus marketers need to innovate continuously and create awareness at mass-market level, in order to sustain competition and retain customers. Consumers, on the other hand, may need to incur additional costs in order to understand the functionality of wearables, which may include purchasing accessories or seeking professional assistance.

Every technological product has its benefits and drawbacks, likewise, there are limitations for wearable technology. The first limitation is of the wearable not being accepted widely due to low levels of knowledge and awareness. Recently, an inventor was attacked in a Paris McDonalds chain by three men who were fearful of the EyeTap digital Eye glass he was wearing (Zennie, 2012).

The second limitation is data accuracy, for which wearables and smart watches have not been able to retrieve and measure data of physiological functions such as body temperature and heartbeat accurately, coming across as a limitation for usage.

Since wearables are fairly new to the market, usability barriers like uncomfortable design of the device, low satisfactory user experience are quite expected.  Improper usage of wearable technology may have its own drawbacks (e.g. security, data privacy, misapprehension of day to day tasks). Firms may lose out on consumers, as they may not want to feel that their wearable device is an uncomfortable object on their body, but rather an extension of themselves.

Wearable technology can be intrusive when there are constant updates, alerts and notifications that keep popping up on these devices. Sometimes the users just want to disconnect from these devices and switch off. Personal information such as health data and body measurements of the user may be stored on these devices and users may not be comfortable with the idea of sharing such information on a device due to privacy concerns. Wearable devices are also expensive and fragile, so users need to be careful as damages may lead to costs, therefore limiting their user experience.

Implications on Consumer Behaviour

Based on a report published by the IOWA State University, “The most frequently validated factors that influence consumers\' attitudes towards and purchase intentions for technology and innovative products are perceived usefulness and perceived use of ease''. The following implications have been divided into categories on the basis of its impact.

a) Health: Reliability of wearable technology is increasing rapidly due to the various benefits it offers in the health sector such as health tracking and physical activities using Fitbit and Apple watches. The devices measure heart beat rates, counts steps walked and run. Contact lenses that measure blood glucose in the diabetics are also available in the market. These benefits have increased life expectancy, decreased obesity, improved sleep, manage stress, increase productivity and improve work life balance. Example: Apple watches can send a SOS distress signal to the emergency services if the heartbeat of a person goes low.

b) Hand free purchases:  The entire process of browsing, evaluating and eventually buying can be completed through a wearable device. For example, if a customer has a smart watch, he or she can just walk into the store, pick up what is desired and simply walk out, without the need of checking out, facilitated by technologies such as mobile payments and RFID.

c) Real time and personalized marketing by the retailers: The retailers can get access to consumers' profile information and their buying history by synchronizing it with their gadgets. It helps them improve their customer service, display customized messages and monitor customer's location in the store.

d) Untapped potential: Multiple benefits like faster payments, easy use of security key cards and smart phone connectivity with wearable devices indicates increased usage and higher efficiency of consumers both at home and work.  

e) Social implication: UNICEF is using an effective mid upper arm circumference (MUAC) measuring tape. This is used to measure the circumference of a child's arm using the printed colour bands red, green and yellow to indicate if the child falls into the acceptable rate of nutrition level or not. This technology has proven to be excellent in gathering relevant data on health for the benefit of the society.

f) Device capabilities: One way or two, it helps in sending and receiving various types of messages, signals and alerts, examples include, Emotive/Muse headbands and Bluetooth ear buds. Another prominent example can be Disney's magical band which is an RFID enabled wrist band used to unlock experience at their parks.

Future Potential of Technology

Smart devices tend to have a better potential for growth in the global market, while smart clothing goes hand-in-hand and cannot be disregarded. The wearable technology sector is enormous, and the categories within need to be considered equally, as they share particular functions and usage.

An article, ‘Fitter, Dumber, and more Productive', emphasizes on the revival of ‘behaviourism' through the rise of wearable technology, and Psychologist Ivan Pavlov's theory of Classical Conditioning and Operant Conditioning has been deeply tied to the functionality of wearable products with consumers' (Poole, 2016). Poole emphasizes on the growing usage of technology and ‘machines to motivate' and control human behaviour in today's era (Poole, 2016). Thus, consumers and marketers need to differentiate and position the products in a manner which highlight the purpose of wearable technology through an engaging experience.

Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) conducted a study on wearable technology, which identified various trends that determine the future growth of the sector. The report states that wearable technology is predicted to grow substantially in the workplace, due to which employees and managers shall make use of wearable devices in order to carry out routine tasks (The Wearable Life 2.0, 2014). The report also highlighted the need for marketers to create an engaging consumer experience in order for the sector grow.  

The future sees wearable tech moving out the health and fitness sector (where they have a strong footing) and moving into more mainstream segments such as the workplace. We will see an integration of wearables with the existing technology. In the workplace, new opportunities will be created in terms of new forms of marketing, data collection and insight deriving tools.

The challenge of Privacy will be tackled head on with companies becoming more and more transparent about the data they use; to instill more trust in their consumers. To increase user experience, companies will now start putting the consumer at the forefront of all their business strategies. This in turn will positively increase the consumers experience with the product.

Millennials are the highest consumers for Wearable Tech but the future sees Generation Z up the ante for it. For the new generation, technology is an integral part of themselves and we can see them taking forward the wearable tech revolution. According to Credit Suisse estimated that the entire wearable market (smart watches, glasses and wristband monitors) is estimated to be about $35 million and is anticipated to reach over $42 million in the next five years. As with any new technology, it's important to recognize that the Wearable tech industry will boom even further in the future.

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