Wearables Are Here – What Every Marketer Should Know

@Wendy | Development

What makes it possible to consider the adoption of wearables? The explosion of digital data, the size of handheld devices, the desire to be more aware of our well being, and connecting with one another in more rewarding ways. Why should marketers pay attention and take it seriously? As an industry, its market size creates enormous potential.

  • 1.2 million potential shipments in the first year
  • $10 billion for all wearables encompassing everything from hearing aids to wristband pedometers
  • $30 billion by 2018

IHS Global Insights

Potential Opportunities for Marketers

For the short term, and with only a small percentage of consumers owning a wearable device in the next few years, brands shouldn’t consider themselves missing major opportunities to engage. But as in any technology shift, the first responders typically benefit from the initial attention and excitement. It can also provide access to a multi-screen world and a dramatic increase in attained data about your consumer. This requires marketers to ensure they’re keeping up with their digital platform upgrades for 2014, such as the optimization and responsiveness of current and new devices, as industry trends continue to head in this direction.

Industry SWOT

Strengths: Wearables create a huge potential for innovative applications – smart watches, tech clothing, headsets & devices – even robotics.

Weaknesses: The technology is largely untested and in its infancy; typically documentation and devices are hard to come by so developers are hard to find.

Opportunities: There are many ground floor opportunities to partner and cross promote and if there is a rich ecosystem to leverage (like Apple’s), there are many ways to directly interact with users (see: Romotive’s Smartphone Robot, a SF-based company robotics startup).

Wearable Market Segments

Health, Fitness & Well Being

Motivated by the need for a greater awareness of daily health and insights into how to improve and create healthy lifestyle regimes, this segment of the market is the hottest and has the most established market players. With the adoption of Apple’s M7 chip, which was embedded into the new iPhone 5s, tracking motion, Apps like the new Pedometer+ don’t require clever motion measurements or estimates by themselves – they simply poll the M7’s database.

Emerging Players:

  • Under Armour’s Armour39: touchscreen t-shirt concept that measures athletic performance.
  • Misfit Wearables’ Shine physical activity monitor: a small silver disk is designed to clip or pin anywhere on the user’s body, or be worn on a watch or necklace using LEDs to help the user achieve physical fitness goals, and syncs with a smartphone by placing the disk on a screen.
  •  FitbitForce Fitness Band: includes a clock, altimeter for stair climbing, is partially water resistant and has a physical button for moving through workout functions.
  • Smart Underwear: UC San Diego NanoEngineers, Clarkson University, the University of California, and the San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering are developing printed micro sensors (simple electrodes) that can be printed onto fabrics and are machine washable and worn in elastic bands in the underwear, keeping it close to the skin (e.g. medical monitoring to detect hydrogen peroxide, NADH, and several other compounds)
  • MC10’s Biostamp: a stretchable circuit embedded in a temporary tattoo aimed to extend human capabilities by making high-performance. electronics virtually invisible, conformal, and wearable”; the digital temporary tattoo stretches and twists seamlessly with our bodies to monitor our health.
  • Spire: a Fitbit-sized clip-on device, aims to help people relieve stress and improve productivity by monitoring their breathing. It gives people a record of their respiratory patterns, as well as alerts and provides real-time guidance on how to control their emotions and stress through breathing exercises.
  • Lift Labs: makes “smart” spoons that enable people with Parkinson’s disease or other tremor-causing conditions to eat more easily.
  • ThriveOn: mobile mental health app that provides remote coaching and algorithmically-created custom programs.

Tech Clothing

Turning rigid electronic parts into stretchy, smart clothing material is extremely practical and can enhance sensory functioning and monitor health; fabrics and designs with built in temperature control mechanisms will merge with invisible add-ons like smartphones, sophisticated medical monitoring systems integrated into shirts to enhance the quality of life.

Emerging Players:

  • MaxVirtual Cynaps Enhance and Cynaps Connect: a hat designed to help people with conductive hearing loss using advanced speakers to enhance sound and transmit it directly to the inner ear. The speakers use bone conduction, so unlike earpieces, the ear remains free for other sounds. If a person without hearing loss tries on the hat and plugs their ears, they can still hear sounds clearly and distinguish between left and right. With Cynaps Connect, the hat connects via Bluetooth to a mobile device, and helps a person to make phone calls and listen to music.
  • Erogear’sFos: a wearable, wireless LED display system that allow cyclists and runners visible using fabric patches each containing a high-brightness LED grid and Bluetooth for wireless display of 16-bit graphics, text and animations from any Bluetooth Classic or Low Energy device. Based on a new architecture, Fos averages less than 2mm thick, weighs 32 grams and is flexible as typical fabric. Foscan be programmed to display GPS-guided turn signals, athletic statistics and other imagery on-demand and in real-time. Cycling visibility is increased as Fos displays animated content unique to the user, while music-lovers can share sound-reactive designs with one another. Promoters can engage local and remote participants via social network messaging.
  • AiQ’s Smart Clothing: features a standard sports jersey sewn with conductive steel yarn and laced with bio sensors in the form of textile electrodes, which pick up basic personal data and then send it to your smartphone using Bluetooth (e.g. continuous heart rate monitor that’s machine washable).

Heads Sets & Devices

Claim to make you smarter or more efficient and can track physical movement, can lead to opportunities to increase brain functioning and share sensory experiences.

Emerging Players:

  • Plantronics Bluetooth Headset: equipped with a new array of sensors, accelerometers, and gyros to gather more information about what a person is doing with the headset; can be synced with Google Street view and can “drive” with just movements of the head and an avatar on an iPad that mimicked the head movements made by the person on stage wearing the device.
  • HzO’sWaterBlock: uses nanotechnology to protect phones, tablets and other devices from liquids.
  • Fo.cus Headset: attaches electrodes to your head that shock your brain for 18yr old+ gamers and can be controlled via Bluetooth 4.0 from a compatible mobile device.
  • PairASight: utilizes a tiny 1080p HD video camera and a two-way audio communications system, integrated into headgear such as glasses so that video and audio content is wirelessly streamed from that system to the user’s smartphone, from which it can then be transmitted any place in the world via the internet.
  • Neurowear: headphones can read your subconscious mind with a sensor that measures brainwaves they detect your mood and select music from your playlists to match it.

Tomorrow’s Wearables

With the likes of Google, Apple and Samsung, along with top venture funds investing in wearable startups, we’ll see a plethora of devices and applications along with an App ecosystem to support them if the business model makes it a profitable endeavor for developers. The biggest impact could likely be Apple, with its promised to release a smartwatch (the iWatch) later this year. If Apple can do for the smartwatch what the iPhone did for smartphones, it’ll propel the industry in ways that will benefit consumers and marketers alike!

Additions & Feedback

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