Call Us: +44 (0) 7825 431294

The death of wearables?

There’s been a lot of buzz around over the last few weeks on the wearables market, and whether wearables and activity trackers have a viable market niche in the mHealth world. Articles such as:

So it’s all over for wearables then?

I thought I’d step back and try to take a balanced perspective before we rush to the conclusion that wearables are dead, almost before the market has really started.   I was fortunate to attend a talk this week at Health 2.0 Manchester by Blaine Pryce, a senior lecturer at the UK’s Open University who has been pursuing ‘quantified self’ type measurement since the 1990s.  He has conducted a number of studies around the deployment of activity trackers, and his overall findings were fascinating:

  1. Users tend to fall into 3 distinct categories – ‘Dedicated’, who won’t be parted from their trackers, ‘Pragmatists’, who use the devices most days and ‘Calibrators’, who discontinued use once they worked out what ‘normal’ was for them.
  2. He found that sleep tracking did not work well for a number of users, as equating restlessness to disturbed sleep (and vice versa) was not accurate
  3. When I asked him about drop-off, he confirmed that up to 50% of users did discontinue usage, and there was a direct link to convenience, charging and integration with other devices affecting persistence.

His overall feeling is that we are still only scratching the surface in the potential of tracking.

So here’s my take on it and how this might play out:

  1. Yes, all activity trackers and wearables are flawed currently, whether it’s battery life, limited functionality, ergonomics, reliability, or clunky apps.  They are all compromised in some way, simply as a reflection of their trade-off between consumer-friendly pricing and packaging.
  2. The flaws won’t stop them being useful to a large number of users, and not just in the ‘worried well’ space either.  At Health 2.0 we also heard from Dr Paul Abeles, a consultant clinical psychologist who is using activity trackers as an adjunct in the treatment of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, where monitoring the balance between activity, rest and sleep is highly significant.
  3. Given the quality of the players involved, the trackers and wearables will get better, although there will be a shake-out for those lacking differentiation or brand power.

Life beyond wearables?

Ultimately, the next significant wave beyond wearables will be implantables, significantly smaller, body-powered and capable of giving us much greater insights.  I appreciate these might not be for everyone!  How would you feel about going down the implantable road? – let me know here or as usual you can contact me.

Leave a Reply