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Wearable Tech: Opportunities of Startups

Wearabe Tech: Opportunities for startups

Gartner predicts 504.6 million wearable devices to be sold globally by 2021. It estimates the sales of smartwatches to total nearly 81 million units (16 percent of total wearable device sales) generating $17.4 billion in revenue by 2021.

Here’s the latest that’s been happening in Wearables and what you should consider for consumers to embrace your product.

1. Define your niche

If you’re starting up in Wearables, your market research would tell you that the space is booming and is buzzing with competition.

How you position yourself is key. Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, focus on a niche segment that fulfills the needs of a specific consumer segment and intersects with your interest.

Some good examples include Xmetrics, which is a wearable designed by swimmers for swimmers to help them track their performance and receive real-time audio feedback. Athena (Roar) which creates smart jewelry for the safety of women.

The Asia Pacific wearable medical devices market is expected to grow at a CAGR of ~15.94% during 2017-2023 (Market Research Future). Apple is working on health monitoring. Pharma leader Eli Lilly is developing a smart insulin delivery wearable. Fitbit partnered with One Drop to help diabetic patients monitor their health. Eyra and iMerciv offer devices for the visually impaired. NeuroMetrix offers wearable chronic pain relief devices.

Nuzzle and V-Pet by Vodafone offer GPS tracking devices for pets that help monitor the pets’ activity and sleeping patterns.

Industrial Wearables too are gaining pace. Wearables for the workplace, esp industrial setting such as factories, warehouses, mines and construction sites will continue to see demand. These devices are transforming workers’ safety, improving efficiency and minimizing risks in industrial workplaces. Companies such as GuradHat, Lynx and Daqri are developing smart devices in the industrial wearables category.

Why should I buy your product?

This fundamental question has become existential for Wearables companies today. How you differentiate yourself is one of the key challenges of Wearable product development.

The abandonment rates of smartwatches and fitness trackers were 29 percent and 30 percent respectively in 2016 (Gartner). With a plethora of devices available to consumers, the value proposition of your product must be clearly defined.

There is also an ever increasing focus on the industrial design of the devices. The ‘Form’ has gained as much importance as ‘Function’, more so with Wearables. The design plays a huge role in the success of your device and should reflect your product’s value proposition.

Design your devices keeping the consumers’ higher objectives in mind. You will then have a great product that will truly resonate with its users.

2. The Power of Data.

By 2025, approximately 80 billion devices will be connected to the internet (IDC). These devices and sensors within them will generate 180 zettabytes of data.

That’s huge.

As a Wearables company, think about ways to leverage data to personalise and enhance customer experiences, thereby creating stickiness.

A good example of Personalisation is the in-store customer experience offered by Macy’s (and several other retailers today). The company is personalising shopping experience with the help of beacons (also called “nearables”) -- bite-sized wireless devices that use bluetooth technology to trigger location-based pre-set actions. The company sends out discount coupons, rewards and personalised deals to shoppers, thus engaging customers better and receiving important consumer intelligence in the process.

Enterprise retail wearable shipments - including smartwatches, wearables cameras, wearables scanners, smart glasses - will reach nearly 10 million in 2022, increasing from just 2 million in 2017, a CAGR of 38% (ABI Research).

UK furniture retailer Heal’s is testing smart glasses to give its online shoppers a more personalised insight into its products. Sales staff equipped with smart glasses will be able to provide real-time tour of what’s in the store in an attempt to bring online and offline experiences closer for its customers.

Data should be at the core of strategic decision making within a company. Use data to not just enhance customer experience, but derive actionable insights. For example, can you analyse real-time data to introduce new service offerings or better segment your customers or refine your business model?

Unitedhealthcare has integrated fitness devices into its wellness programs and rewards policyholders for leading healthier lifestyles. Users get health-care credits for successfully achieving their goals on their Fitbit devices.

Besides Retail and Insurance, several other industries such as Healthcare, Banking, Automotive, Education and Sports are actively embracing Wearables and leveraging data and analytics to personalise their services to match user requirements better.

3. Miniaturization

The pace of innovation in the Wearables space is accelerating exponentially. Wearables are already giving way to Hearables - computational devices that can fit inside the ear and can do almost everything that your smartband could do.

The global market for Bluetooth-connected and wireless earbuds and headphones will be worth $40bn by 2020 (WiFore Consulting).

Hearables are so much more than just wireless earphones.

Take the Bragi earbuds for example, that come with a 4GB storage, inbuilt microphone and a host of sensors to let you stream music, measure health and sport-specific activities, translate foreign languages in real-time, offer gesture control, answer calls and much more. Bragi is already experimenting with mixed reality environments.

The device sizes are shrinking, yet their capabilities continue to expand. The innovation in sensors and batteries and tumbling costs are enabling devices to become smarter, powerful, yet invisible.

Consumers too want Wearables that are efficient, accurate and personalised, yet do not distract. And companies are listening. We are already seeing biometric clothing, smart jewelry, smart footwear and more.

Levi’s Commuter Trucker jacket with Jacquard by Google is a high-tech jacket packed with innovative features. Smart clothing will reach 31 million units sold in 2022, increasing from just under 5 million in 2017. (ABI Research).

Sensoria’s smart sneakers have in-built sensors that help runners avoid injuries.

Wearables are now moving inside the human body - truly invisible!

Coworking space Epicenter is tagging its employees and startup members with microchips that makes it convenient for them to do things such as swiping the door open, printing, paying for lunch etc.

Proteus Digital Health offers a digital pill - a drug with sensors - that lets doctors monitor patients. The microchips are powered by stomach juices and transmit data digitally via bluetooth. The digital pill recently got approved by regulators in the US.

It will take a few years before “disappearables” truly become mainstream. However, there is tremendous scope for disruption.

4. AI assistants

50 percent of all searches will be made by voice in 2020 (ComScore). Look around and you’d concur.

AI assistants are getting smarter. Google Assistant, for example, will be able to do a lot more including ordering products from Target and troubleshooting your phone. It is integrated with the entire Google ecosystem including the Pixel Buds.

Bragi Dash earbuds support Amazon Alexa and Apple AirPods are designed completely around Siri.

Amazon’s Echo speakers will have a 70 percent share of the voice-enabled speaker device market (eMarketer).

Smart speakers continue to be popular and voice is increasingly being used over text. The virtual assistants are becoming smarter and voice commands make more sense over typing on small wearable screens. And, Hearables and virtual assistants make perfect sense together.

The Wearables space has been buzzing with activity but there is a long way to go. Innovations in technology continue to pave the way for entrepreneurs to define the future of Wearable technology. Wearable devices of the future will add value to the consumers and play a more pivotal role in their well being.

Wearable Tech is brimming with possibilities and ripe for innovative startups to change how people work and play.


Outdesign Co is a product design & development company helping clients across 15+ countries turn their ideas into “World-Firsts” and award-winning products.

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