Wearables will rule the world. Fingers crossed.
2016 will be the year of wearables. Probably.
In the last 12 months, wearables have been a constant topic of conversation. The reaction has been mixed with some early adopters smugly telling anyone who listens that they were right and others—even the biggest fanboys—hedging their bets. According to Forrester Research, one in five U.S. adults either owns or has used a wearable and the market is poised to be one of the big tech earners of 2016.
In 2014, only 10% of American adults admitted to having a wearable device. The Apple Watch was still in production (announced in September 2014) and Fitbit was the poster child for a new wearable generation, but wearables were being hyped as the device that would break out in a big way in 2015.
Maybe 2016 will be the year for wearables. Depending on which report or analyst you want to believe, next year is going to be the one for mass adoption … in much the same way that 2015 was going to be the tipping point.
Wearables Beyond The Smartwatch
Wearables have come on in leaps and bounds in 2015, mainly thanks to the actual arrival of the Apple Watch, but the hype surrounding wearables is still that … hype. Gartner’s 2015 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies had wearables meandering toward the trough of disillusionment, along with augmented reality and 3D printing so cynics could be forgiven for giving a collective shrug when thinking about a wearable future.
Way back in January, ARC Editor-in-Chief Dan Rowinski predicted that wearables would expand beyond the smartwatch—Apple Watch adoption notwithstanding. He was right. Wearables have become more than just wrist-based.
Google the word “wearables” and a plethora of innovative ideas pops up. Every sector seems to be investing time and research into wearables, whether that be the defense industry or healthcare professionals or even the entertainment sector. Fitness devices still lead the way, but professional sports teams have embedded sensors into clothing that can track performance and provide data. Everywhere you look, companies and brands seem to be focusing on wearables … there is even a tattoo that doubles as a wearable, Quartz reported. Perhaps it should be called an “embeddable.”
Wearable Adoption Relies On More Than Awareness
A December report published by Grand View Research said that the wearable market would be worth over $70 billion by 2022, a significant increase when you consider that the sector was worth around $5 billion in 2012. So is 2016 going to be the banner year for wearables?
Forrester Research certainly seem to think so. In a recent report, Forrester said that there were five fundamental reasons why the wearable market will grow in the next 12 months;
- People want them.
- Businesses want them even more.
- Companies will create new business and service models with wearables.
- You’ll be surprised where wearables show up.
- The All-Body Network—in other words, total coverage.
Companies are already taking advantage of the data generated by wearables to personalize experiences and target existing and potential customers. Partnering with device manufacturers is a logical step, especially when considering how successful apps have been in customer interaction.
At the same time, smartwatches have no limitations as to where they can be worn or even who they can be worn by. For example, parents can track their children with a wearable device while pets can be fitted with a collar that acts in much the same way. Early adopters are well aware of the haptic feedback that wearables provide, while the data can enrich both digital and physical lifestyles.
Finding The Right Adopters
Enterprises are arguably the perfect target market. Forrester said that 76% of global tech and business leaders have wearables on their agenda, with 62% seeing it as a moderate to high priority. Companies that have workers in the field or who rely on physical inspections of machinery could profit from smart glasses, for example. The healthcare sector can keep an eye on patients without needing them to be present. Employers can monitor stress levels of employees or health … the possibilities for workplace wearables is unlimited.
Smartwatches certainly have the potential to scale up dramatically in 2016, but the market is still very much in its early stages. Vendors and manufacturers are keen to leverage the technology and there are signs that the demand is there. On the flip side, the average consumer is more likely to embrace wearables if they can add value to daily activities—Fitbit is a prime example—and Forrester’s research says that the wrist is still the popular option.
According to the Forrester report, an online survey of 2,067 U.S. adults gave a glimpse into how wearables could be useful. Around 66% of U.S. adults who are “intrigued” by wearables would use it to access maps or navigate, while 64% would take photos or videos. Both of these uses are covered by a smartphone. Fully 50% would use it to search the Web for information and 43% said that being able to find out information about a person at a party was a reason to invest.
So if everyone wants smartwatches or other wearable items, why is only 21% of the population wearing or using one? Awareness doesn’t always equal identified value. People who own wearable devices swear by them, the rest of the population is still in the wait-and-see mode.
Leveraging The Power Of A Brand
For smartwatches to take off, awareness needs to be translated into adoption. And if one brand is going to do that, it will be Apple. Apple has built its reputation on creating a market for devices that we didn’t know we wanted and if 2016 is going to be smartwatches year, then it seems logical that Apple will flex its muscles.
Forrester credits the brand with raising consumer awareness of smartwatches and says it holds the key to future wearable success.
“Early wearables like fitness trackers were focused and functional or, like Google Glass, experimental and still in beta,” said Forrester vice president and principal analyst J.P Gownder. “Entering 2016, however, wearables are poised to take off. Yes, the attention of the world is focused on Apple Watch, but it’s really the entire wearables category that Apple has legitimized with its product announcement.”