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The Personal Technology Revolution: Smart Wearables Moving Mainstream, Blurring Boundaries Between Human and Tech

Posted on December 23, 2014
By Emily Basileo

The Infiltration of Smart Wearables

Each day, smart technology is becoming more ingrained in our personal lives; smartphones and tablets are just the tip of the personal technology iceberg. Our need to “be connected” has become such an inherent part of our lives that devices now allow us to stay connected at all times. Personal technology has evolved from merely carrying portable devices to the state of actually wearing our devices. Among these advances are smart watches, smart glasses and wearable health/fitness monitors – and these are merely stepping stones into the personal technology revolution.

Not Just Early Adopters

International Data Corporation (IDC) predicts that wearable technology is poised for explosive growth, projected at 483% worldwide by 2018, with a compound annual growth rate of 78% i. As use cases for wearable technology multiply and as devices become more personalized, this number may see even larger growth over the coming years.

Even with the influx of wearable devices currently available in the market, wearable device penetration remains relatively low, as compared to smartphones and tablets. According to our research, only 11% of our mobile users currently own a wearable device. However, our research also suggests that the wearable trend is beginning to move mainstream; only one-third of wearable purchase intenders consider themselves early adopters. Instead, the “average” wearable shopper believes that wearables are the future of technology (53%) and is increasingly finding him-or-herself dependent on technology (48%).

Fragmented Market and Purchase Consideration

The wearable device market is highly fragmented – there are wearable devices for every part of our body and a myriad number of use cases. But even within the wrist wearables umbrella, there appears to be very distinct markets for smart watches and health/ fitness monitors – smart watch consumers expect to use their devices to stay connected with others, i.e. to make calls and send messages (52%) and to tell time (41%), whereas not surprisingly, health/ fitness monitor consumers will use their devices to improve their overall health (55%). In comparison, only 16% of smart watch consumers prioritize tracking their fitness goals.

When considering which smart wearable devices to purchase, compatibility with other smart devices ranked most important (47%) followed by price (43%). Somewhat surprisingly, although one-third of wearable buyers believe their “electronics are a reflection” of them and one-third like to be “stylish and up to date”, only 8% prioritize “the way a device looks” in the top 3 most important factors impacting purchase decision. This is not to say that device aesthetics isn’t important – in fact, in recent study conducted by Nielsen, 53% of consumers want wearable devices that look more like jewelry ii.

The Fitness Factor – Health Monitors Fit to Takeover the Market

As reported in our State of Mobile App Monetization Report, we are already noticing an uptick in health and fitness app usage on our network. And we predict that as more consumers purchase personal fitness devices, fitness and health app engagement could potentially skyrocket. According to our wearables research, more than half of female wearable shoppers prioritize health and fitness in their daily lives, so this subset of wearable device purchase intenders will likely influence the global app economy.

Blurring Boundaries Between Human and Tech

Wearables are arguably one of the most intimate forms of personal technology to date. However, there will come a day when we won’t just be wearing our smart devices – already we are experimenting with implanting devices for medical purposes iii and perhaps all too soon, we’ll be implanting them for recreational reasons. Our devices will truly become parts of our physical beings.

As the line between tech and human becomes increasingly blurred, it will be harder to differentiate between our smart devices and our selves.


Sources
i International Data Corporation (IDC), “Worldwide Wearable Computing Device 2014-2018 Forecast and Analysis”, April 2014.
ii Nielsen, “Connected Life Report”, March 2014.
iii U.S. News & World Report, “Wearable Tech for People with Disabilities, November 2014.

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