If you’re new to the concept of “wearables” and have become aware of the growing volume of interest, media attention, investment (not to mention search volume) on the topic then buckle up—you ain’t seen nothing yet.
What is a Wearable?
Wearables are clothing or accessories embedded with computers and sensors. Wearable devices help us track, organize and optimize our own personal data through the use of tiny micro-sensors that pass data to our smartphones and computers. We can use the data a wearable collects to see things such as how many steps we take in a given day or how long we slept. And, as we see with Apple Watch, wearables are also being used to augment our SmartPhones with features that let us know when we have a text message or phone call.
To date, the wearable market has grown exponentially. Companies like FitBit, Xiaomi, Garmin, Misfit and others are predicted to see 232% growth in sales and shipments relative to 2014.1 And, with Apple entering the wrist-race in 2015 with the rollout of AppleWatch, the growth curve should continue to rise steeply.
As the holiday season approaches, there will certainly be more intense focus in the media, advertising and at your favorite stores on wearable technologies. Intense competition from industry leaders like FitBit, Apple, Athos, MisFit, Garmin and others will most certainly speed the pace of innovation in the industry.
Wearables Get More Personal
Wearables no longer just data that tracks a person’s workout performance or heart rate. In fact, the data we generate simply by existing can be used to inform other data gathering devices, like our thermostats, to adjust the temperature in our homes or unlock the door, or turn on the lights. Scenarios like this are sometimes referred to as the “Internet of Things.” And that’s just the beginning.
As with most computer technologies, wearables continue to become more sophisticated and powerful (think Moore’s Law), which essentially means smaller, smarter, faster. As wearables evolve from wristbands to clothing to jewelry to embedded, the utility of the technology will undoubtedly be enhanced with the ability to communicate with other personal information such as diagnostic and genomic data.
Imagine a scenario where a person’s unique bio-signature gathered via wearable technology can be cross-referenced against millions, maybe billions, of genetic records to predict the relative likelihood of certain medical conditions. Think tanks, government regulatory groups are in the midst of determining the legal, regulatory and ethical ramifications but wearable technologies are outpacing the system.
Wearables and User-Centric Design
One of the most exciting by-products of the wearable revolution are the new models for receiving and processing data. Dashboards that display performance at a glance are commonplace in the business world but are just now being adopted by consumers to aid in processing personal data.
Understanding user needs, behaviors and the psychological impact of data will present User Experience professionals with new sets of challenges and opportunities.
Companies like Apple who historically, have elevated the customer experience through elegant design are bringing principles of User-Centric design principle to the world of wearables where touch, sound and sight work to create multi-dimensional experiences.
Wearables for a Cause—Google Glass and 3000 Miles to a Cure
In 2014, Primacy teamed up with 3000 Miles to a Cure to create a Google Glass application that connected bikers – riding across the country and raising awareness and funds for brain cancer research – with their fans.
The Google Glass-enabled app and site share cyclists’ journeys across the country and pair their progress with fundraising pledge milestones along the route, creating a positive cycle of hope and inspiration between bikers and those fighting brain cancer.
Wearables and Marketing
The next topic on people’s minds is how wearables will shape the way brands, and leverage, connect and engage people through wearable technology. Given the increasing sensitivity to privacy, companies will need to seek opportunities that add value to the wearable experience.
As wearables become more ubiquitous and consumers begin to naturally integrate and react to wearable-generated personal data, brands and marketers will need to understand and embrace the new dimensions that wearable data promises to deliver.