Wearable Technology and the Future of Personal Health

Whether it is Google Glass or an inevitable, Apple-branded iDevice, wearable technology will eventually find the right way to capture consumer interest. Wired magazine predicts that “the wearable revolution could take shape much faster than the mobile revolution.”

Thanks in part to the “peace dividend” of the smartphone battles, computer chips have gotten cheap and small enough to power interesting wearable devices that consumers may actually want. As a result, startups and established companies alike are already seizing on this new market, creating a deluge of devices that will benefit personal health.

Indeed, Information Week Health Care reports not only that did consumer interest in wearable technology grow from 3 percent in 2012 to 13 percent in 2013, but also that a full 75 percent of online U.S. consumers claim to own a “fitness technology” product.

The “fitness technology” category includes products such as Shine, which according to Forbes, currently is the best fitness-tracking device on the market. Shine, a product by startup Misfit, leverages a “high precision three-axis accelerometer” to provide the wearer with data that tracks all movements and cycles of daily activity. This is intended to encourage users “to be more aware of their patterns” so that they may adapt and set reasonable goals to improve.

Meanwhile, the Motley Fool writes about another wearable technology product that ties fitness into social networking—the Jawbone Up fitness bracelet. Jawbone is larger than the average startup, and it already is known for its audio products. Thus, the company’s foray into wearables represents not only confidence in the market but an attempt to disrupt and seize the market early. It could be a wise choice: The Jawbone Up not only tracks physical activity and calories burned, but posts that data to social media services of the user’s choice. Combined with settings that cause the device to vibrate when users are sedentary for too long, the Jawbone Up is positioning itself to inspire physical activity in wearers on multiple levels.

Despite the promise of wearable technology, consumers have identified two concerns consumers. First, Forbes reports that users have expressed “frustration” at the quality of data provided by their wearable fitness devices. Second, in an era of NSA-spying scandals, wearable technology represents significant privacy concerns; 51 percent of Americans cite privacy as a “barrier to adoption.” Similarly, 62 percent of respondents said they believe that wearable technology should be “regulated in some form” before widespread adoption occurs.

With the demand for wearable technology expanding, startups should find a way to address the concerns of the consumer if they wish to position themselves strategically in the market.

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