Wearables are the new black. Actually, just like black, they’ve never not been a thing. Did you know glasses are considered the first wearable technology, making wearable technology innovations over 700 years old? Glasses are still as relevant today, with approximately 64% of US adults using them.
Oh and fun fact: over half of all women and about 42% of men wear glasses. Insert any witty joke here about women being more likely to ask for help ….
The global enterprise wearables market (excluding glasses) was valued at $3,232 million in 2016, and is projected to reach at $32,418 million by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 38.8% from 2017 to 2023. And that was before COVID-19.
Obviously, in 2020, wearables have a whole new meaning and that’s true for even the humble eyeglass.
So, what’s the connection between glasses and wearables? We think this is just one example of a product category ripe for disruption.
But we know spectacles are not the first thing you think of when we say: “wearables.”
Most folks think of the smartwatch category, as the FitBit and Apple Watch really put wearables on the “map.” But did you know that Apple wasn’t the first to market? The Seiko Pulsar NL C01 was the first smartwatch available way back in 1982 (which was the year our co-founder was born – coincidence? We think not.) If you were a true dork, you’d buy them with a dock that boasted a “thermal printer” and a “memory cartridge slot” – how sexy does that sound? To add to an already confusing user experience, they weren’t equipped with any connectivity and really served no purpose aside from being a novelty. That’s clearly no longer the case for smartwatches as we’ve come a long way since the “calculator watch”.
There is so much more to wearables than having a smartwatch though, and that’s really where this week’s Innovator Newsletter begins. There seems to be a wearable product for every need and every demographic. Why though? Let’s get into that…
TL;DR: Wearables are the future for every consumer type.
What’s driving innovation?
The need for contactless products + services – #TheNewNormal
The COVID-19 crisis has turned our world upside down and the need for contactless everything has risen so quickly that we haven’t quite been able to catch up with it – that means innovation opportunities are abundant. From contactless delivery services and payment technologies — we are only beginning to see a total shift in how we interact as consumers: with businesses, with each other, and with our shared world.. The pandemic spotlights how connected things like health and wellbeing are to contact-based products and services. Look at how quickly seeing a doctor changed for example – appointments via telemedicine are up 2000%. That kind of growth is practically unheard of. That’s why this new normal and its need for contact free everything will happen quickly and it will do so by way of innovations in wearable technology.
What we found interesting is the specific consumer demographics that will benefit most. We know that diabetics wear blood sugar monitors and people with heart issues wear heart monitors. There are wearables to help fix back posture, or to remind you to get up and be active, and the wearables for gamers in AR/VR – the list goes on and on.
Nearly 4,000 companies, both private and public, have received investments for wearable technology since 2006. These companies range in applications for development and consulting to sports and gaming. But as we took a closer look to where the money is going, we realized that there are 3 consumer demographics that you should be paying attention to and innovating around right now.
Who’s wearing wearables?
Police, pets & old folks.
Underserved Market: Security and Defense
An ongoing issue in the US – and one not having anything at all to do with the pandemic – is the relationship between police and people of color. If you’ve logged onto the internet in the last hour, you’ve probably heard of SEVERAL instances of police brutality. It’s a problem. It must stop. And we think wearables could be part of the solution. Accountability has risen, thanks to technology and we are only starting to see justice prevail in some of these instances. This has a lot to do with wearables body cameras on officers and the fact that people are recording these instances from the sidelines in hopes of forcing officer accountability. Let’s take it a step further with data – according to our findings, 1.8% of total investments in wearables have gone to defense & security technology. Doesn’t seem like much but keep in mind that actually comes out to $640M.
Companies like Axon have certainly led the charge in police body cameras and many other companies are following suit. In a time where police seem to be having a difficult protecting and serving people of color, how can innovations in wearable technology help?
We know these are tough questions for an even tougher subject but it’s important to keep the conversation going until meaningful solutions take place. How might we ensure that wearable body cameras are used ethically? Is there an intersection between blockchain technology and wearables here?
Underserved Market: Pets (and their Parents)
Forbes recently reported that nearly 70% of all U.S. households own a pet, with dogs by far the most popular pet, according to the American Pet Products Association. Some 60.2 million households own dogs, compared with 47.1 million that own cats. Think about that, it means a minimum of 100 million dogs and cats just in the United States. Not only are there an incalculable amount of household cats and dogs, the way we treat our precious fur babies has also changed. Our pets are now eating better than humans in developing countries – but that’s an entirely different topic for a different day. The next thing in wearable technology absolutely exists in the pet industry. How do we know? The companies creating wearable technology for pets have received more than $43 million in investments.
Right now, pet wearables help monitor the location of the pet to help prevent losing pets and basic health information like heart rate and temperature. But what’s next? Are pet wearables the emotional support animal for our animals by tracking emotion? How can pet wearables help our animals live longer, healthier lives?
Want to help with pet wearable innovation? Start a project here.
Underserved Market: 55+ or the Silver Tsunami
We’re looking at you grandparents, mentors and more. They’ve taken care of us and now it’s our turn to take care of them. Lucky for all parties involved, technology might do most of the work for us. This is a consumer demographic that stands the most to gain from wearable technology.
It’s an unfortunate inevitability that our senior citizens are prone to falls, and scary health issues like strokes and heart attacks. They can be forgetful and in need of an extra hand. Wearables are the answer to helping with all of that – and guess what, it might even take pressure off a soon-to-be overwhelmed senior care industry. Stay with us here…
Senior care applications in wearables account for 1.2% of all wearable investments and considering that this demographic makes up around 34% of the US population – it’s about time we start bringing better innovations to market on their behalf. These companies are creating some impressive and sometimes life saving technologies that include devices that can predict and detect falls and strokes that go on to alert family and first responders. What’s most promising is what collecting this kind of data can do for medical research.
Let’s think about how this could help in another pandemic where our senior population have disproportionately been affected by COVID-19. How could detection via wearables improve telemedicine services? Could it prevent the overwhelming state that we’ve seen in our hospitals and our healthcare system in general?