The wearables market will be much more than smartwatches and fitness trackers, and Apple and Google won't be the only big names making waves, according to a new Tractica white paper detailing the top 10 developing industry trends.
But it's the third biggest trend--a focus shift to user interface design, analytics capabilities and a clearer value proposition--that will drive consumer adoption, Tractica Research Director Aditya Kaul tells FierceMobileHealthcare in an email interview.
"Today, most wearables lack one or all of these aspects," Kaul says. "Most wearable device companies put a lot of emphasis on hardware, looks, and product design, but pay little attention to what the device can actually do for the consumer."
He notes that while today's fitness trackers collect sleep data, there is no content analysis of the data.
"Going forward, fitness trackers will get better at explaining at what the data actually means and give personalized suggestions or health warnings," Kaul predicts. "Likewise, smart watches will become better at giving useful and timely notifications on your wrist, apart from collecting accurate health data and being used as an invaluable payment device."
The wearables trends research, which cites North America as driving device adoption, also lists the increasing importance of crowdfunding for emerging technologies and corporate wellness programs creating a "quantified enterprise" in terms of supporting wearables among employees. The paper also predicts wearables as a service arriving on the horizon, and smart clothing becoming the "ultimate wearable."
Data and user privacy remain top reasons consumers are wary of wearable devices. For instance, a recent Parks Associates report notes that about 35 percent of consumers who responded to a survey say they fear their health data will not remain confidential if put online; additionally, 23 percent of broadband household owners who responded to the Parks Associates survey cite privacy and security concerns in using connected health devices.
However, Kaul dismisses security as a top challenge, given consumer use of mobile payment technologies, cloud data storage and online banking services.
"Consumers, in my view, have already made the tradeoff using mobile and Internet services, in return for taking risks with security and privacy," he says. "Security threats will always be there, and consumer services will need to keep their guard up. The smartphone is going to be the central platform for collecting and analyzing this health data using wearables, with an increasing array of sensors on the smartphone itself."
Kaul points to Apple's HealthKit and Google Fit as prime examples.
"All of these platforms are taking security very seriously, and consumers will put more emphasis on the value that they provide in terms of providing personalized health and fitness insights, which can then be shared with your personal doctor or hospitals," he says.
Going forward, a critical adoption aspect will be keeping users engaged, according to Kaul.
"If a device like a smart watch helps you make payments on the move, is able to filter and contextualize your notifications from your smartphone, removing the need to open your smartphone every few minutes, and at the same time is your personal doctor and trainer tracking your vitals throughout your day, encouraging you to be healthy and active, doing all of these things better than any other device especially the smartphone, it will become one of those devices you don't leave behind," he says. "We are just at the beginning of this analytics and machine learning revolution, which will benefit wearables."