There is a lot of excitement about wearable technology today. Wearable health tracking devices such as Fitbit and Nike Fuelband, and the recent announcements by Apple of its upcoming IOS 8 release of their HealthKit, and Google’s announcement of Google Fit have increased the level of interest of how we can use these technologies to monitor and improve our health.
I recently attended a Wearable Toronto Meetup group meeting where there were presentations by Krista Napier of IDC on the state of wearable technology in Canada, Robert Tu of MeU on his wearable LED technology, and Pierre-Alexandre Fournier of Hexoskin on their intelligent wearable vest technology.
The Wearable Market
The wearable technology market is in its very early and formative stages. It has the potential for being very large.
There are many devices out there today with more to come. The compelling application that will fire this market into a significant mainstream market has not happened yet. Further, like many technology markets, the wearable market will likely only support one or two main hardware players with a larger number of software application providers supporting the products.
Here is a quick summary of the three talks from the Toronto Wearable Meetup.
IDC – Canadian Consumer Wearables 2014-2018 Forecast
Krista Napier of IDC gave a 15-minute overview of her recent study of the Canadian wearable market. She told us that IDC conducted a survey in January of Canadian consumers and their intent to purchase wearables:
- 10% stated that they would purchase wearable eyeglasses (like Google Glass)
- 9% stated an intent to purchase a watch or bracelet with a smartphone connection
- 18% would purchase a fitness accessory like Fitbit or Nike Fuelband.
She categorized today’s wearable market into three categories (Keep in mind that these will probably change dramatically as the various segments cannibalize each other and as one segment becomes dominant.):
- Complex independent accessories such as the Fitbit. These devices are standalone, inexpensive ($100 to $150) devices that do one thing well. They are closed systems with no support for third party software. Today this is the biggest of the three categories but will probably be consumed shortly by the other categories.
- Smart accessories such as the Samsung phone and watch combination. These products are more fashionable than the complex independent accessories, and are priced in the $150 to $300 range.
- Smart wearables such as the Google Glass product. These are quite expensive today ($1,500), support a third party ecosystem, and offer a richer set of services.
IDC estimates that the Canadian market for wearables will be $600M within a few years. She pointed out several of the key challenges facing the market segment, specifically, social acceptance of the technology, privacy issues, and distribution.
MeU LED Wearable – Robert Tu
The MeU is a wearable LED technology. It is controlled by your smartphone and displays graphic and text. The LED matrix can be attached to your clothing.
A bike rider may want to wear one at night to ensure drivers see them on the road. The bike rider can communicate his direction and status by sending signals to the LED matrix for display. (When one of the audience members asked if was safe for a bike rider to use his smartphone while riding, Robert acknowledged the dilemma.)
Robert sees the opportunity in the intersection of clothing manufacturers and electronics.
I have to admit that I struggled with this technology and was unsure if I could see a viable market opportunity for it.
Hexoskin – Pierre-Alexandre Fournier
The Hexoskin is a wearable vest that records and monitors a wide range of body metrics. The product supports an IOS and Android app, and you can also access your vitals by logging into an online account at Hexoskin.
Pierre-Alexandre stated that the opportunity was in continuous health monitoring and preventative health maintenance.
The product looks very good. I checked out the web access to the vital health information collected on the Hexoskin and it seems quite comprehensive.
Pierre-Alexandre stated that the product had gained acceptance with elite athletes and a few other segments.
The Hexoskin is $399 and is available at the Hexoskin website.
Their price is a problem for general consumers (even those very interested in their health).
My wife has a physiotherapy clinic and has looked at several wearables she can use to monitor and track her clients’ health progress. So far none of the products she has tried have met the mark for various reasons. The Hexoskin, although an interesting product, at $399 it is too expensive for her to impose on her clients.
We are in the early innings of this market. It will be interesting to see how wearables truly affect the health market and what applications compel people to purchase. Stay tuned.
This article is part of my Digital Health guide.