Lack of Consumer Interest in Wearable Tech

With growth in smartphones and tablets slowing in 2013, some of the largest consumer electronics manufacturers are turning to wearable electronics in the hope of developing the next blockbuster gadget. Growing demand for feature phones, followed by smartphones, over the past decade has driven the development of mobile components which offer a strong performance in small form factors, enabling the production of watch-sized computers. The problem that remains in need of a solution is what practical applications of a head or wrist- mounted computer could persuade mainstream consumers who already own a wide array of portable electronics to purchase these products.

State of the market

The very nature of wearable electronics enables manufacturers to develop a wide array of product types and form factors. In terms of form factor, most of the products on the market in mid-2013 are wrist-mounted, but there is strong interest in developing head-mounted products, most of which will likely become available to the public over 2014. There is also limited interest among manufacturers in products designed to be worn on the chest, waist and so on. Most of the products available today are miniaturised sensor arrays that gather biometric data about a person. Products like Fitbit Flex, Nike+ FuelBand, BodyMedia Fit Link and others are some of the more popular passive wearable electronics available today. These products have no or very limited on-board processing capability and are designed to work in conjunction with a smartphone or computer. We call these passive wearable electronics.

Autonomous wearable electronics are far less common in the market today, but most development is focused on these types of devices. Unlike their passive counterparts, these products also include built-in data processing and/or advanced connectivity features. The Sony Smart Watch and Google Glass are some of the few autonomous wearable technology products available now. This article will focus on passive wearable electronics while a subsequent piece will discuss autonomous wearable electronics.

Passive aggressive

Passive devices have been the sweet spot for wearable technology, and in 2013 a fast-growing, highly competitive market has emerged. The absence of advanced data processing and connectivity hardware on the devices make them smaller, cheaper, more durable and energy-efficient, while still performing their core functions. Most of the wearable devices on the market today collect and store biometric data about the user and then relay this data to a computer or smartphone for analysis. In July 2013, Euromonitor International conducted a Quick Pulse Survey among its analysts to gauge interest in various features of wearable electronics. The results showed a high level of disinterest in most features, although the level of interest in fitness and health monitoring was
noticeably higher.

Respondents Indicating Their Level of Disinterest in a Particular Feature of Wearable Electronics


Respondents Indicating Their Level of Disinterest in a particular feature of wearable electronics

 

Source: Euromonitor International Analyst Survey—Analyst Pulse; July 2013

Note: Question: What is your level of interest in purchasing wearable technology devices with the following features? N=221

As the survey results confirmed, health and fitness-oriented products with limited functionality beyond biometrics offer the best opportunity for wearable electronics in mid-2013. This is a market that is highly reliant on fitness enthusiasts mostly in developed countries, especially the US. Globally, the interest in such devices remains low, but products like Fitbit Flex, the Garmin ForeRunner series and others have found a large audience in developed countries and the market for passive wearable consumer electronics is developing and diversifying very quickly.

The next frontier

Passive wearable electronics are on the verge of becoming mainstream in developed countries, with many large manufacturers present or about to enter. However, smart products for pets are mostly in the early stages of development, with only a handful of products like the Whistle collar currently on the market. In 2013, the level of awareness and interest in devices that track the location and activity of pets is very limited.

Level of Interest in Wearable Electronics for Pets Among Current Pet Owners


Level of interest in wearable electronics for pets among current pet owners

Source: Euromonitor International Analyst Survey—Analyst Pulse; July 2013

Note: Question: Which of the following best describes your opinion of smart pet products that track a pet’s health, activity and/or location? N=98

As awareness of these products grows, consumers will also become increasingly comfortable with personal wearable electronics, and with pet humanisation at persistently high levels across developed markets, pet-specific products will likely become increasingly common over 2014/2015.