Sunday, April 13, 2014

Wearable Technology: Fad or Trend?

This article caught my eye today. Apparently many folks who buy wearable technology don't keep using it over time. This doesn't surprise me, read on to find out why. 

I have seen a variety of form factors of wearable technology advertised or reviewed recently including watches, rings, cuffs and bracelets. I have some of them on order. I use a Pebble smart-watch almost every day at work. I use a fitness tracker bracelet for sleep monitoring several times a month. 

Today I came across a new wearable. It is a posture-tracker, and it syncs to your smartphone (of course). Find it at LumoTech. I can see this having real applications for some folks, but probably not the 20 somethings that it is being targeted at. Sort of looks like a brooch on the outside, and the guts of it are worn on the inside. It stays together via strong magnets. Clever idea.

 The article makes some good points. According to their research (which I could not verify) ten percent of adults have purchased a wearable device, and a third of them stopped using it within six months. The article is actually a bit confusing as it discusses fitness trackers and then seems to switch to all wearables, regarding long-term use. There is a graph with the article that shows the sustained use trailing off over a two year timeframe. Anything purchased two years ago was probably a fitness tracker and that seems like a long timeframe for a tech sector so early in it's development. I thought this was the most important part of the relatively short article:    

“It’s not enough to sync with, link  to, or work alongside one of the current devices on the market, or to partner with one of  the many startups to design an even better device,” the report said. “Designing a strategy to ensure sustained engagement is the key to long-term success in this highly competitive space.”

Sustained engagement is key. Duh. That is always key. Building brand loyalty is also key, but I guess you have to convince the consumer to use the device consistently before you can convince them to buy the next model from you. The fact that 90% of the consumers have not even tried a wearable of any type should give huge hope to would-be product developers. 

I think it is a bit early to be predicting the decline of this tech sector. The devices are early in their maturity cycle. Only the Pebble smart-watch seems have any staying power at this point, but many devices are on the horizon. The article does lay out some things that the device manufacturers should focus on to create sustained engagement. Pebble has done most of those. My favorite among the strategies is to publish open APIs for access to the device, and to create a developer ecosystem. 

This summer will see the release of many new devices. Several rings will be released (see my blog post on that), the Rufus cuff will be released as well as perhaps (be still my heart) an iWatch. If we rewind two decades or more to the early days of the PDA, I think we will also see a lack of sustained engagement with the early devices. Anyone remember trying to learn to write in "graffiti" on a Palm Pilot?  

With a tech sector this young, I don't think it is unusual to see devices bought, tried, and then shelved until something better comes along. Early adopters do that, and they do it often. I know I do. 

1 comment:

Stephanie Butler said...

I find wearable gadgets as interesting, useful and helpful for everyone.
Wearable Technology