Wearables are Dead. Long Live Embeddables!

Fitbit, the watch-like physical activity tracker that kick started the whole wearable trend, is on the ropes. The company was founded in 2007 and went public in 2015. Now, just 2 years later, the soothsayers are declaring the end of Fitbit’s golden era. As analysts reviewed US company’s Q1 2017 results last week, Fitbit came up short. It may still be a bit early to call time on the wearable market. Nevertheless, we may well look back on last week as the tipping point for the embeddable market.

You see Fitbit is losing market share to the Apple Watch. According to a CNBC report, Apple shipped 3.5 million units of their smart watch in Q1 2017. This figure is up from 2.2 million the previous year. Fitbit shipped 2.9 million for the same period, which represented a 35% decrease from the previous year. Overall, shipments of wearable devices increased by a little over 20%, year on year.

So why am I saying these results signal the end of wearables? Well, although the Apple Watch is still a wearable device, the fitness and health tracking features of the watch are not the primary reason for the purchase. Whereas with Fitbit, these features are really the only reason to buy the device. In the case of Apple Watch the tracking features are essentially embedded into the watch and just become a supplemental benefit. It’s not that consumers have lost interest in their health metrics, they just want to have it all done for them automatically. The irony is that we’ve become too lazy to make the effort to track something we genuinely care about – our own health and fitness.

The Power of Voice – today’s technology input…and output

It’s only a matter of time before so much of the technology we currently have to plug in or connect to will just become ubiquitous. Whether it’s Siri, Alexa, Google Home or Cortana, all the big boys have make big bets on voice activated input – and output. Why use the mobile app to order your groceries online when you can just talk to your phone to make the order? Soon enough, you’ll just talk directly to your fridge to do the same? Better yet, you’ll only need to tell your fridge what brand of milk you like once.  It will then keep track of usage and order your refill before you even knew you needed it. It’s being called the internet of things. In short, it’s all about embedding technology in every conceivable part of our lives.

Smart Clothing – from sports to health

Smart clothing such as the Bright BMBR jacket from Rochambeau is in its infancy, but another good indicator of what’s coming. These guys have embedded smart NFC tags (like the ones used in your credit cards for contactless payments) and QR code tags into the clothing. These can be scanned for entrance to selected nightclubs or to receive special discounts and offers at select merchants. By the standards of tomorrow, this kind of innovation will seem crude. Sensors in all that we wear will eventually become the norm.

Unsurprisingly, sports clothing is leading the way in terms of sensor embedded clothing. Hexoskin has a range of shirts fitted with multiple sensors that track all the biometric markers your Fitbit does, and more. Athos and AIO Sleeve offer similar alternatives, with the latter hopeful that it’s clothing will also be able to help measure stress levels and detect heart problems. And it gets even more interesting we look at products like Neopenda’s smart hat for new born babies that monitors vital signs and Eva, a bra that can detect breast cancer.

Sensors – the future of all inputs

Billionaire tech mogul Mark Cuban has been saying for years now that sensors are the future. It’s pretty hard to argue with him. Indeed, much of the technology we need to make this happen is already here. It just needs a little tweaking and refining. Of course, it can be tempting to poo poo some of the inventions mentioned above as silly futuristic novelties. But remember, the first versions of any new concept are rarely the ones that stick. Remember Google Glass ? They were launched in 2013 to lots of fanfare – and a reasonable amount of ridicule. The project was ultimately shuttered in 2015. Earlier this year, however, the concept was reimagined in the form of SNAP Spectacles. It’s too early to tell if this iteration will catch on, but it’s fair to say that maybe Google’s idea wasn’t as silly as many first thought.

And all this while the spa world is screaming for us all to take a digital detox. Hmmmm? Maybe instead of encouraging our guests to shun the digital world, we should be embracing it and finding ways to help them use technology as the tool that it is.

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Wearable market has increased 20% since last year.
  2. Dedicated wearables – like Fitbit – are on the decline, vs integrated wearables – like Apple Watch.
  3. Smart clothing is moving from sports only to general health.
  4. Voice activated Input and Output from technology is a big NOW trend.
  5. Sensors are a huge TOMORROW trend.

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