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WEARABLES AND THEIR FUTURE WEARABILITY

Wearable technology has hugely revolutionized the way we interact with electronic devices. Today, in addition to the usual Bluetooth headphones and smart watches, wearable devices are represented by many more categories such as AR and VR glasses, medical devices and even smart swimsuits. Wearable technology has now transitioned into numerous industries such as healthcare, wellness, and even fashion.

If one can remember correctly, it was Apple’s groundbreaking launch of the iWatch in 2015 that marked the beginning of a significant shift towards wearable devices with capabilities far beyond just simple step tracking. Increased health awareness in several segments of society and the onset of the global pandemic further emphasized the need for real-time health monitoring and early detection of potential risks. This led to a rise in the development of wearable devices in healthcare. Examples include heart monitors, pulse oxy-meters, as well as smart patches and several others.

Global positioning system (GPS) has become an essential tool for various industries, including transportation, logistics, and emergency services. The development of GPS technology has been instrumental in improving accuracy and reliability in determining our location and finding the most efficient routes. Apple introduced an interesting product called AirTag, a wearable device that allows users to attach a small device to any item and track its location any time.

Over the years, the wearable technology industry is experiencing a significant shift towards discreet and stylish devices that resemble jewelry, departing from the conventional fitness bands. The late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld had once said, “Technology has to be invisible. Wearable technology must be beautiful.” This sentiment reflects the desire of consumers for devices that not only function well but also look good and feel comfortable and trendy to wear. This is the main reason why certain brands score above others.

A jewelry bracelet designed for personal safety is equipped with various features including a built-in siren, GPS module, and other safety features. Its functionality enables a user to effectively deter potential threats and transmit accurate location data,

A similar trend has been successfully embodied in wearable NFC payment technology. As we move towards a cashless society, the demand for contactless and convenient payment solutions is on the rise. Tech companies are partnering with financial institutions to improve security and streamline transactions, making wearable payments an essential aspect of our digital lives.

Smart clothing and the popularity of AR and VR glasses is on the rise. However, consumer purchasing habits are now beginning to play a more important role in the wearable technology industry, directly influencing product design, marketing, and pricing strategies. Wearable technology designed to be stylish and aesthetically pleasing is beginning to appeal to a larger segment of fashion-conscious consumers.

There are a large number of global consumers who already own other devices, such as smartphones or laptops. They would be more likely to purchase wearable technology compatible with their existing technology. This can include devices that use the same operating system, or devices that integrate with popular apps and services.

The downside to the wearables category is that there is an ever-increasing number of mass-market brands that are almost perfect low-cost substitutes for each other. They all have their moment in the sun because they are able to underprice their rivals and push their products aggressively on online marketplaces. 

More and more companies and brands are finding a contract manufacturer who will produce them as inexpensively as possible. Such contract manufacturers are a dime a dozen. Companies and brands then use investor dollars to fund deep discounts and hope to be big enough that the thin margins will create good volume traction for them to succeed in the online marketplace.

This could, over time, erode consumer confidence in the mass market segment.

As of now, earwear and smartwatches drive the wearable market. The global wearable segment is likely to be a whopping 560 million units this year, with earwear as the most successful segment, with almost 350 million units forecast to be shipped in 2024.

For the wearables segment to continue its upward movement and trajectory, and for the world to see more successful players in the mass segment, a deeper understanding of consumer behavior towards wearable technology is crucial. Companies and brands will need to focus time, money and energy to continuously innovate and to design products that meet the needs and preferences of different consumer segments and to develop effective marketing and pricing strategies.

Like for every other part of the technology industry, privacy and security concerns are among top concerns about wearable technology as well. Brands should address these concerns, such as implementing data encryption and user consent measures and communicating these measures clearly to consumers.

As wearable technology becomes more integrated into daily life, the potential for innovation and growth in this field is limitless, as long as this industry puts its focus also on security and sustainability.

 

(The author is NIRANJAN GIDWANI, CONSULTANT DIRECTOR | MEMBER UAE SUPERBRANDS COUNCIL | CHARTER MEMBER TIE DUBAI | HBR ADVISORY COUNCIL, and the views expressed in this article are his own)