What businesses can learn from the booming wearable technology industry

Business Intelligence / Customer Insights
In 2012, 30 million wearable, wireless monitoring devices were sold in the U.S. That figure spiked 37% from the number sold in 2011. In the “2013 Internet Trends” report released by KPCB a few months ago, Mary Meeker and Liang Wu noted an unusual pattern in computing cycles: the first cycle was Smartphones, followed 10 years later by Tablets as the second cycle. However, Wearables /Drivable devices, or the third cycle, represent an industry that is growing faster than the typical 10-year cycle.

Wearable technology includes devices that measure your physical activity, your blood oxygen levels and even your sleep, and this rapidly growing industry is showing no signs of slowing down.  Research predicts that sales will rise to 160 million devices by 2017, and IMS Research puts the wearables market at $6B by 2016.

So what next?
With wearable technology providing us with insights that can be used to change our behavior for the better, this has contributed to a major shift in the healthcare industry. We are already seeing  insurers start to encourage consumers to use these devices not only to boost fitness, but also to reduce their health-care costs.

According to a Forrester Research report we can expect the wearable device market to be an important battleground for the big platform makers, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook.

Analytics, Data Visualization, Personalization and the Cloud
So what can companies learn from this industry? With many of these devices collecting hundreds of measurements and data points every hour, this amount of data can be overwhelming for consumers to manage.  Especially since we are already inundated with a high number of messages and alerts –  all competing for our attention.

With this in mind, here are 4 ways companies can make both products and wearable devices as user friendly as possible.

Accuracy of the data provided to the wearer is vital.  Scientifically validated software gives the user confidence that the reported results are accurate.

Data Visualization
Data should be presented in a way that best suits the user.  For instance, one might prefer to review the data in a spreadsheet, while another might prefer to see the data in a chart.  Respect for privacy settings of the user is also imperative.

The wealth of data is converted into easily understood results and meaningful metrics, which are actionable and can ultimately lead to positive behavioral changes.

Cloud Storage
All of the data from the device is stored in the Cloud, making it easy for the user to access it any time from multiple devices.

Sleep: a case study for wearable devices
Okay, sleep may not be the first thing that comes to mind when we think of improving our health.  But, it’s proven that nutrition, exercise, and sleep form the three pillars of health.  Nutrition and exercise are widely understood and discussed as contributors to one’s health, and a number of wearable devices exist to track user’s habits for eating and exercising. Unfortunately, the value of sleep is often neglected, and with serious consequences.

Time Magazine reviewed the impact of fatigue on the marketplace in the article, The High Cost of Bad Sleep: $63 Billion Per Year.  Quality of sleep is a valid concern for many companies looking to optimize results and reduce accident rates in their workforce, particularly in the areas of Aviation and Transportation, or in industries involving higher risks for their staff, such as Oil and Gas and Mining.

Let’s take a look at the 4 ways wearable devices can be made more user friendly (as described above) and apply them to an example of a company that is looking to increase performance and productivity of their employees.   The company wants to optimize the work schedules and travel calendar of their staff using wearable devices.

  • Analytics: to ensure accuracy of the data, the company should first check if the devices are certified by accredited institutions, such as the FDA (in the U.S.) and Heath Canada.
  • Data Visualization: the company should also find out if the solution provided by the manufacturer provides raw data (such as actigraphy data), processed data (such as motion or sleep), or more meaningful metrics such as fatigue score or performance levels.
  • Personalization:  users of the wearable devices should be able to get detailed information about their daily activities and scores, while managers can access only aggregated data, stripped of any personable identifiable information. The data should also provide detailed information and identify trends, as well as a reference on how the user compares with other similar users, based on criteria such as age, gender, occupation, location, etc.
  • Cloud Storage: with the data stored in the cloud, each user can have access to a personalized and private dashboard at any time.

In summary
Wearable devices have tremendous potential for uses in several industries, in particular health and fitness.

Wearables are changing our lives in many ways, some trivial and some substantial. Companies have an opportunity to innovate, lead and create devices and solutions that will provide us with insights and actionable information leading to positive behavioral changes. 


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