10 Wearable Technologies and Capabilities That Should Not Be Ignored

August 10, 2016

Contributor: Laurence Goasduff

The opportunity for wearables is expanding rapidly. But, how do product planners decide which of the many wearable technologies to invest in?

Sales of wearables will increase from 275 million units in 2016 to 477 million units in 2020, representing a $61.7 billion revenue opportunity. We asked Roberta Cozza, research director at Gartner to discuss her top 10 picks for wearable technologies and capabilities and explain why they are the ones to pay attention to over the next two years.

Q: How did you select the top 10 wearable technologies and capabilities for 2017 and 2018?

A: We selected the technologies based on their wider importance and impact on creating innovative and more-compelling wearable device experiences. They also initiate new opportunities to engage with users, improve wearables adoption, and ultimately deliver new business value for wearable technology providers. Our top 10 technologies and capabilities for 2017 and 2018 are:

  • Biometric authentication
  • Mobile health monitoring
  • Energy boosting using harvesting
  • Virtual personal assistants (VPAs)
  • Smart coaching
  • Embedded security
  • Conformal electronics
  • Wearable processors
  • Virtual and augmented reality
  • Accurate motion recognition

Q: What will give vendors the edge over the competition?

A: There is no denying that this is a highly complex and competitive market. Product planners must identify the most strategic wearable technologies and capabilities to expand their value for existing wearable users, as well as increase adoption by demonstrating compelling use cases for new users. Without the right skills, partnerships and asset acquisition strategies, wearable device product planners risk missing out on the significant opportunities available.

We have identified seven main areas that we believe can bring the best user experience (UX) and most business impact, and these should be at the forefront of product development plans.

  • Battery life: A crucial limiting factor impacting wearables UX.
  • Biometric technologies: Will become more ubiquitous and accepted by users.
  • Security: To address increasing concerns on confidential data exposure.
  • Intelligent experiences: Virtual personal assistants (VPAs) will further extend to wearables becoming a key user interface.
  • Improved design: Innovative wearable technology such as bio patches, electronic skin, and the use of integrated wearable processors for improved performance
  • Immersive experiences: Including augmented reality/virtual reality
  • Improved sensor accuracy: This is key to biometric measurements or object/movement tracking.

Q: What sort of intelligent experiences can we expect from wearables?

A: There is genuine scope for wearables to create intelligent personalized experiences that really add value. It doesn't take much imagination to see how adding "smart coaching" functions to fitness wearables would drive differentiation in a highly crowded market.

Smart coaching refers to the ability of fitness wearables to gather multiple biometric data and use machine intelligence software and analytics tools to provide real-time actionable advice, feedback and notifications to the user. These coaching capabilities enable users to take action to improve a specific fitness task or training, receive smarter fitness-related alerts, or more-sophisticated feedback on how to adjust a workout. We believe this capability will improve the value proposition of today's fitness wearables as they become ever more capable from a technology, processor and sensor perspective, and able to more reliablycollect a growing number of biometric inputs.

A fitness wearable that includes smart coaching not only adds more value for its users, but can lead to added revenue streams through specialized services and hardware bundles.

This offers product planners a key differentiation strategy against competing fitness wearables brands, and added specialization. The impact of smart coaching capabilities extends beyond consumer environments and within organizations. In organizations that require physical training for their employees, or in healthcare organizations which provide real-time suggestions for rehabilitation or chronic physical pain patients.

In addition, VPAs have the potential to transform the nature of interactions with wearables and take a central role as a new user interface standard and gateway to applications.

In 2017, we expect artificial intelligence, machine learning and VPAs to be a major strategic battleground for mobile platform. Gartner predicts that by 2020 40% of all mobile interactions will be facilitated by smart agents as we move into the "post-app era."

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