The wearable market is exploding! The notion of quantified-self and the desire for data collection about our bodies and behaviors have become so important and valuable that many entrepreneurs and established companies have devoted a lot of resources to build products to address these needs.
Fitbit, with over 67% of the market share in 2013, has been by far the leader in the wearable market. Apple just launched its HealthKit, which aims to connect the world of health from multiple dimensions by facilitating the accumulation and access to the health data. Salesforce bet on wearables by launching its Salesforce Wear Developer Pack to enable developers to build applications for a variety of wearable devices. Google, Facebook, Samsung, Motorola, and LG all have joined the wearable party!
Although most of these wearables will end up offering various functions (e.g. taking pictures, receiving text messages, pushing relevant information to user) the “health” offering will be by far the most revolutionizing and important component of all successful wearable devices. That’s why companies like Apple and Google made big bets, hiring top influencers of the healthcare industry to lead their health and wearable initiatives. Given that, the question becomes what does a wearable 2.0 need to offer in order to be a winning wearable product?
Below are some of the most important factors that wearable 2.0 companies need to focus on:
1) Provide More Accurate Data: Many skeptics of wearables 1.0 rightfully question the accuracy of data collected by the monitoring devices. Even the basic information tracked by wearables 1.0, such as steps taken or calories burned, is not really accurate. For instance, if you do bikram yoga and burn about 450 calories, your Fitbit or Jawbone wristbands won’t capture any of that.
Because of their lack of accuracy, wearables 1.0 failed to establish trust with mass population and can’t yet be confidently used by physicians and care providers for medical decisions. Aggregating accurate data that could be used for preventive care and diagnosis is a much harder, yet much more important nut to crack! Offering more accurate metrics is the first step for wearables 2.0 to establish trust with those who want to quantify themselves (users) and those who want to quantify others (physicians or coaches).
2) Offer More About Health Than Only Fitness: Most of the current fitness trackers collect information about the number of steps taken, calories burned, and duration of high intensity workouts. Some of them like Fitbit and Jawbone also track your sleep and allow you to manually keep track of your food intake.
Although these might have been interesting metrics to offer for wearables 1.0, they won’t be enough for wearable 2.0 products! Wearables should move beyond fitness and focus more on health. They need to track more biometrics and health metrics such as glucose level, oxygen saturation, heart-rate, heart rhythm, respiration rate, blood pressure, temperature, cortisol level, and adrenaline level to better demonstrate an individual’s health status at any given time. Being able to provide a 24/7 health snapshot of an individual will be invaluable and make a much more compelling usecase for the wearable 2.0 devices.
3) Offer Tools That Make Data “Actionable”: Collecting all of these health metrics alone won’t be that useful. Being able to make the accumulated data digestible, comparable, and actionable is what wearable 2.0 companies should focus on. Research shows that ⅓ of wearable owners depart their devices within the first 6 months. Based on my interviews with many of these users, I learned that they expect their wearables not only track their health and activity metrics, but also help them to improve those numbers. For wearable 2.0 makers to succeed:
– They should classify collected data from people of the same age, gender, and health profiles and create indexes.
– Then, they should provide those indexes to users, so that each user could compare his performance relative to others in the same category.
– Finally, they should incorporate features and levers in the product that encourage everyone to be at their best and improve from their baseline.
4) Integrate Into the Healthcare System: For wearables 2.0 to have real impact, they need to be integrated into the healthcare system. Collecting more health metrics and more accurate data are definitely right steps towards building trust and credibility with physicians and care providers. In order to widely penetrate into the healthcare system and become part of a doctor’s daily workflow, wearable 2.0 makers should focus on two things:
– Establish partnership with existing technologies and systems in hospitals and physicians’ offices. Great examples of such partnerships are Apple’s integration with Epic and the Mayo Clinic. We need more of these in order to have a win-win-win situation for users/patients, wearable makers, and care providers.
– Offer features that address care providers’ needs (e.g., a dashboard with charts and tables to easily demonstrate a user’s health metrics).
Wearables are and will be one of the most disruptive and exciting phenomena of our era! In addition to the points mentioned above, there are a few other elements that wearables 2.0 should get right in order to become the desired product everyone wants to wear 24/7. These elements include the design, privacy factors, battery life, and all-in-one-device offering. I’m looking forward to seeing the next generations of wearables evolve rapidly to empower us with an amazing amount of information about ourselves and offer us exceptional user experience.