With wearable technology still in its infancy, predictions about its future uses, forms, and capabilities remain a much-discussed topic.
Clutch spoke with experts from 15 businesses about the role they foresee wearable technology playing in the near future – the next six to 12 months.
All feedback pointed to a positive outlook and a sense of excitement about wearable technology's potential to evolve in ways that will allow developers and businesses to change how people interact with both their environments and gadgets.
The most common responses posited that the general population will begin adopting and accepting wearables on a larger scale once they realize the technology's ability not only to record and aggregate data but also to give this data a context and meaning that will change habits.
As our feature on the variety of early use cases for wearable technology demonstrates, businesses across sectors already began harnessing, displaying, and enabling interactions with this data in creative, innovative ways.
Other predictions about the future of wearable technologyspeak to the depth of additional possibilities:
- The value of the personal data collected through wearables will improve.
- Wearables will create a new way of living, similar to how smartphones revolutionized both how people use phones and for what tasks.
- As the platforms evolve and improve, the functionalities will result in new use cases.
- Enterprises and businesses will adopt wearable technology to increase efficiency and facilitate completing time-intensive tasks.
- The most accepted wearables, which are now watches and wristbands, will expand to other devices and parts of the body.
1. Increased Adoption by the General Population
The future of wearable technology depends on one crucial factor: the consumption and persistent use of wearables by the general population. Accomplishing this feat demands demonstrating the usefulness of these devices' and applications' capabilities. In what ways can wearable technology enrich the wearer's life?
Experts weighed in on this point, emphasizing that the ways in which wearables harness and display data will serve as the tipping point for increased adoption.
“Wearables are a private network of data. They give more and more information about us. … This data provides unique insight into our lives and our bodies – the kind of information that was not easily accessible previously or cost a lot. Right now, wearables simplify and make it much cheaper to access this information, understand what is happening to our bodies, and identify how to improve the quality of our lives.”
— Andrew Garkavyi, CEO, Stanfy
“I think that we are going to see people start to get used to the idea of having this device that does a few very specific things but offers a lot of benefits in small amounts when it's needed.”
— Annika Seaberg, Creative Director, MentorMate
The connection between usefulness and full-fledged integration into society also depends on how well the wearables' capabilities habituate charging and wearing the device daily.
“At the moment, our sense is that wearables can offer great value to people, but they're still a novelty item – they're a bit trendy. People use them for a few weeks or a few months, but then they get sick of charging it, forget to put it on for a few days, and finally just stop putting it on at all. The habit-forming nature of the product is not necessarily there quite yet.”
— Stephanie Peterson, Vice President of Strategic Communications and Marketing, Runtastic
2. Improved Value of Personal Data Collected
Giving the data collected by wearables meaning and context is key to facilitating the overall acceptance and habituation of the new technology.
For example, in the health sector, pairing two disparate data points can demonstrate an individual's level of health and alert him or her to warning signs.
“If a single metric that you're measuring – let's say your heart rate – goes up and down naturally throughout the day, it doesn't provide any meaning to your doctor. But, if you are tracking your heart rate in the context of your activity, all of a sudden, a doctor can see that your heart rate increases a lot, even while you are sedentary. This suddenly becomes meaningful because an elevated heart rate on a jog or run is natural and expected. But, if your heart rate increases every time you go to sleep at night, when you're just lying down, it could be a sign of bigger issues.”
— Sean Mehra, Head of Product, HealthTap
Data from wearables increasingly will be portrayed on these devices in a manner that improves their value for the consumer.
“We have a particular focus on health care at MentorMate, and we see wearables coming much more into focus as a way to provide visibility into how people work and act and what their health is doing on a day-to-day basis. … A lot of businesses are finding out how to take very specific points of data collection and turn them into something meaningful for their clients.”
— Annika Seaberg
3. From Smartphones to Wearables – A New Way of Living
The experts expressed faith that just as smartphones revolutionized how people perceived and used mobile technology, so too wearables will change people's behavior.
“"First, they had smartphones, like the iPhone, and, after that, there was the iPad. To be honest, for me, the Apple Watch is like the iPad: it's a new device where you can share your content. The iPad and iPhone are natural for us to use nowadays. Everybody uses it, and everybody loves it, so I think the Apple Watch will be the same way.”
— Dmitry Kostin, CEO, Touch Instinct
New technology often leads to changes in behavior, and wearables will be no different.
“Right now, consumption and regurgitation of data is getting more beautiful and user friendly. But, actually getting people to change their behavior, that's the thing that I hope to see.”
— Kyle Simmons, Solutions Architect, MentorMate
“I believe companies, like Runtastic, will continue to experiment and find new ways to bring wearable technology into everyday items, apparel, habits, and activities. We'll find ways to hide the technology so that people are compelled to track their activities on a 24-hour basis, day by day.”
— Stephanie Peterson
4. Better Ways of Applying Wearable Technology's Capabilities
Experts expressed excitement about designing and developing for wearables as the technology's capabilities and functions improve.
“In the future, I hope there will be new use cases, apps, and experiences with smartwatches that will make them an even better platform. I expect voice control and other functionalities to be available on the platform, and I expect watches to deliver a better overall experience to both consumers and businesses that are trying to satisfy consumers.”
— Markiyan Matsekh, Product Manager for mobility and wearables, ELEKS
New use cases will emerge as the technology improves as well, further broadening wearables' appeal.
“I think what's also interesting, in our case specifically, is the metaphor or analogy of Sickweather's Apple Watch app performing like a Geiger counter for illness. I think that there are going to be other forms of geo-located data that developers will realize can be applied to this same analogy: wearables may become data field detectors of sorts. In our case, it's data collection for illnesses, but there may be other categories that emerge.”
— Graham Dodge, President and CEO, Sickweather
5. Increased Adoption by Businesses and Enterprises
Wearable technology will be applied to large business settings to increase efficiency and facilitate completing time-intensive tasks.
“The third category [for the future of wearables] is probably niche business usage, like professionals using wearables to perform their jobs in the field or in highly specialized environments. These are probably medical and surgical environments, site surveys, security surveys, and photo editing and reporting in the field. These are more specialized business domains where wearable technology will find some niche users, and it will probably increase the overall usage.”
— Levent Gurses, President, Movel
6. Prominence of a More Diverse Array of Wearable Devices
While watches and wristbands are the most widely recognized wearables on the market, the types of popular devices will expand in the future.
“I've started to see more opportunities for pre-orders for things like Ringly, which is a pretty cute ring that has a chip in it that provides feedback to a mobile app. It will vibrate once when you get a text message, or it will vibrate twice when you get a call. There are other jewelry-shaped wearables that don't look like technology, but you can use them to send out a panic call or get your text messages.”
— Annika Seaberg
Kyle Simmons of MentorMate, also referenced a wearable mattress cover from Luna.
Even now, wearables do not include activity trackers and smartwatches only.
“Wearable technology is a misleading term because there are activity trackers, smartwatches, and smart glasses, all of which solve different problems.”
— Markiyan Matsekh
“The release of AR [augmented reality] and VR [virtual reality] capabilities are commercial offerings, such as Oculus Rift, HTP Vibe, and Microsoft's Hololens, will trigger their adoption as gaming units. When they go mainstream, they will change the wearables space. We started with our wrists, but the next step will be our eyes and even our brains.”
— Sep Seyedi, CEO, Plastic Mobile
Business leaders clearly have faith in the future success and potential of wearable technology, despite the challenges posed by developing for a new platform.