Recently, there was news in the business world that the projected sales of wearable computers would reach 585 million units and billions of dollars within a few years. These computers include various sensors or displays worn on or placed in the body that perform activity tracking. You've probably seen wristbands and smartwatches. Is it over-hype or will sales skyrocket similar to the IPhone or GoPro camera? Will consumer attitudes and adoption rates drive and accelerate this market segment?
Wearable technology information was featured in an InsideOutdoor Magazine article including survey feedback, the current situation, and the future of wearable computers. The early applications of wearable technology serve active and fitness-minded consumers. Wrist-worn devices can monitor and communicate information about motion, sleep, location, heart rate, and other body functions or health metrics such as steps taken, calories burned, etc. Concepts such as "fitness optimization" and the "quantified self" are currently chic and in 2013 there were nearly 5 million activity tracker units sold. Venture capital for biosensing wearables multiplied ten times between 2011 ($20 million) and 2013 ($229 million). It was cited that 10 million activity trackers were to be shipped in 2014 along with 7 million smart watches.
Companies that are already in store display cases include Nike, Fuelband, and FitBitForce…but in short time watch for a wearable tech tsunami led by Apple, Samsung, Google, and others with their smart watches, glasses, and so on.
The surveys show that 10% of Americans are strong candidates for early adoption of this technology. There are statistics showing those who are interested desire geo-tracking, fitness cues, goals, rewards, and the ability to share or compete with a group.
Among American adults, 46% are at least a little interested, while 53% are not at all interested in wearables. Many people can not envision any benefit of wearables or view it as just another fad. Many people are currently uninformed about wearables and don't understand the need for such technology. About 17% will consider wearables when the price drops and the "bugs" have been worked out and 19% say they will never buy a wearable device. Interest is strongest among younger consumers but most want the technology to meet their needs better or replace technology they already use. Research about smart watches regarding gender showed men who are generally more gizmo-friendly (52%) are more likely than women 40% to be a little interested.
Factors for adoption and utilization for any products include quality, fit, utility, aesthetics, out-of-the box ease, etc. Outdoor recreation has already applied wearable tech to things such as insulation, moisture management and anti-odor, insect deterrent, and sunscreen. But we'll see touch-button materials to operate portable devices, solar panel materials to charge devices, monitors for concussions, and the delivery of various analytics for performance optimization (ski turns, paddle stroke, golf swing, etc.).
Applications with apparel, for health and training needs, and protective sports gear are only the beginning. Frankly, the options for wearable technology extend beyond activity trackers and biosensors and currently the use of wearable technology is just beyond our imagination.