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  • Raghav Sand

Wearables: More Function than Fashion

Technology is all around us. Wearables bring the technology on us. An electronic device designed to be worn on the user’s body, taking the form of wristbands, augmented / virtual reality headsets, and hearing aids powered by artificial intelligence are some of the common examples of wearables. The popularity of wearables has risen along with increased use of smartphones. Almost every wearable has an Android / iOS application, which helps the user make sense of all the data captured by the device. The best part of quantifying activity like the number of steps walked, heart rate and calories burned etc., is that a person can track progress and set goals. Tracking sleep and exercise has gained popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic and it has made wearables a prominent constituent of healthtech sector.

Any device that encourages healthy living and overall well-being will create its own demand. The term wearable computing implies processing or communications capabilities, but in reality, the sophistication among wearables can vary. The most common form of wearable is the smartwatch, which is now seen on increasing number of wrists. The basic smartwatches are inexpensive and this has led to democratization of technology.

Enterprise Usage Outperforms Consumer Usage

Devices have been designed to reduce workplace hazards and increase productivity. Construction industry accounts for a quarter of all work-related accidents and remains one of the riskiest occupations in the world. Wearables capable of receiving audible or visual alarm signals from wireless beacons placed in locations to track movement of large machinery and define restricted or unsafe areas, are being embedded into apparel and personal protective equipment such as gloves, boots, hardhats and safety vests. Furthermore, with the creation of intelligent and internet of things-enabled watches, eyewear, bracelets, head gear and footwear, among other things, a new era of improved safety for workers across all industries is on the horizon. Biometric and GPS-enabled devices can help in monitoring vital signs and location of workers, respectively.

Types of Wearables of Available in Market

Smart Watches: A multi-purpose watch that does more than just telling time. Users get notifications of calls, messages, emails and social media updates etc. Some of the smart watches have all the capabilities that a fitness tracker has to offer.

Fitness Tracker: The most affordable wearable in the market which helps the user keep track of number of steps, and heart rate. The most significant difference between a smart watch and a fitness tracker is the difference in communication capabilities. A fitness tracker is able to calculate and report accurate data on calories burnt and exercise done by the user. Contemporary devices are now able to keep track of sports activity like swimming, cycling and running.

Head Mounted Display: Virtual reality enabled devices transform audio visual content and bring an immersive dimension to entertainment. Apart form entertainment, industrial use has also been configured to amplify the utility of this path-breaking technology.

Implantable: These wearables are surgically implanted under the skin. These are usually used for medical reasons like tracking contraception, insulin levels etc.

New York fashion-tech company Wearable X’s yoga leggings use sensors sewn into the nylon and a corresponding app to help the wearer with proper alignment and posture. Picture Courtesy: Wearable X

Consumer Spending on Wearables to Double in 2021

The consumer spending on wearables in 2018 was US $32.5 billion and it is set to double in 2021. As per industry estimates, the worldwide end-user spending on wearables as a category is expected to reach $63 billion (US). Presently, smartwatches have the biggest share of the wearables market and this dominance will not end anytime soon. Head-mounted display and smart clothing are expected to register highest percentage growth across categories, while smartwatches are projected to take just under 44 per cent of the overall pie with sales of US $27.4 billion.

Indian Wearables Market in 2021

Technology products, both consumer and industrial, have shown resilience and immunity in 2020. Delhi-based BoAt Lifestyle became the number one brand in earbuds (true wireless stereo) last September. Gurugram-based wearable brand Noise registered a 100% year-on-year growth in the last fiscal. The company sold over 1,00,000 smartwatches on an average per month last year, and is aiming to double the numbers in 2021. “The way health and hygiene have become critical for everyone post Covid-19, wearables segment will grow more. Going forward wearables will have more features that will become part of daily lifestyle,” said Gaurav Khatri, CEO, Noise. Global smartwatch shipments peaked in 2018, and once again gained pace in 2020.

Key Challenges for Wearables

Customer engagement is the biggest challenge for the wearable industry. The initial euphoria around a new device can be short-lived due to ineffective customer engagement, bad battery life, pain to sync with smartphones. A functional and capable device can still bomb at the market simply because, it failed to create any meaningful impact on the users, their lives, habits or behaviours.

The utility and adoption of wearables is in the stage of evolution and the opportunity to create a revolution is hidden in plain sight. Enterprises see wearable computing as one of the biggest prospects to drive efficiency and improve communication and workflow. Wearables are looked upon as a disruption and the comparisons with mobile technology are plenty. The growth and popularity of a technology always comes with concerns of privacy and data security. According to a report by Pricewaterhouse Cooper, 86% of users expressed concerns on the use of wearables and the risk of data security breach. Companies should have very strong policies and procedures in place before introducing wearable technology / product in the market.

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