Unless mHealth wearable makers want innovations to go stale the way some fitness devices have, they'd better start making more appealing and relevant products, says a new Juniper Research report.
"The key is making the devices provide meaning as well as data--counting steps is all very well, but will not keep consumers interested unless that information can be contextualized and made useful for them," James Moar, a research analyst with Juniper, told FierceMobileHealthcare in an email interview.
The report, "Smart Health & Fitness Wearables Device Strategies, Trends & Forecasts 2014-2019," predicts more than 18 million smart fitness wearables will be in use by year's end, with the figure tripling by 2018. While fitness is the prime focus of wearables, the broader appeal of smart watch-type wearables may mean they'll be used more down the road, according to a white paper on the study.
Gartner Research is just as bullish on wearables' growth, and in a recent report said it expects shipments in the smart garment category to jump from 0.1 million units in 2014 to 26 million units in 2016. In addition, a PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute report said true device adoption will only come when developers offer affordable solutions that provide greater value.
"Wearable devices have exploded into the consumer consciousness in the last 2 years and, when use cases become established, they will be the 'next big thing' in consumer electronics," according to the Juniper paper, noting "exactly what that 'thing' is varies considerably depending on the market segment and purpose of the devices."
Moar says capabilities alone are not the answer, and data alone will not prove useful if it doesn't offer context to consumers. Aggregate data for institutions and individual data for consumers needs to be given with insight to prove useful, he writes.
"For the devices themselves, makers need to have a clear goal in mind. A fitness device with independent GPS capability, music playback, pace-setting functions and route planning will be good for dedicated runners, but of little interest to casual consumers," Moar adds.
"Likewise, with the pedometer functionality common, fitness-focused individuals are now looking for wearables that provide more information than steps taken and distance traveled. Both kinds of device have a place in the wearables future, but vendors need to decide where their devices sit on that spectrum, more than aiming for a particular set of features."
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