Wearable Technology Future is Ripe for Growth, Most Notably among Millennials, Says PwC

Twenty percent of American adults already own a wearable technology device and the adoption rate – on par with tablets in 2012 – is quickly expected to rise, according to PwC’s Consumer Intelligence Series – The Wearable Future report – an extensive U.S. research project that surveyed 1,000 consumers, wearable technology influencers and business executives, as well as monitored social media chatter, to explore the technology’s impact on society and business. In the last three decades, PwC has examined how technological innovation plays an increasingly prominent role in helping brands set themselves apart in their respective industries and how wearable technology can offer brands an opportunity to establish themselves, particularly in the entertainment, media and communications (EMC), health, retail and technology industries. In conjunction with The Wearable Future report, PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) launched a separate report, Health wearables: Early days, further examining consumers’ attitudes and behaviors toward health wearable technology.

While fitness bands, smart watches and other wearables are already established in the market, many of them have under-delivered on expectations. Consider that 33 percent of surveyed consumers who purchased a wearable technology device more than a year ago now say they no longer use the device at all or use it infrequently. Price, privacy, security, and the lack of “actionable” and inconsistent information from such devices are among consumers’ main apprehensions with the bourgeoning category. In fact, 82 percent of respondents were worried that wearable technology would invade their privacy and 86 percent expressed concern that wearables would make them more vulnerable to security breaches.

That said, 53 percent of millennials and 54 percent of early adopters say they are excited about the future of wearable tech. Among the top three potential benefits:

  1. Improved safety: Ninety percent of consumers expressed that the ability for parents to keep children safe via wearable technology is important.
  2. Healthier living: More than 80 percent of consumers listed eating healthier, exercising smarter and accessing more convenient medical care as important benefits of wearable technology.
  3. Simplicity and ease of use: Eighty-three of respondents cited simplification and improved ease of technology as a key benefit of wearable technology.

And for wearable technology to be most valuable to the consumer, it needs to embrace Internet of Things opportunities; transform big data into super data that not only culls, but also interprets information to deliver insights; and take a human-centered design approach, creating a simplified user experience and an easier means to achieve goals.

“Businesses must evolve their existing mobile-first strategy to now include the wearable revolution and deliver perceived value to the consumer in an experiential manner,” said Deborah Bothun, PwC’s U.S. advisory entertainment, media & communications leader. “Relevance is the baseline, but then there is a consumer list of requirements to enable interaction with the brand in a mobile and wearable environment.”

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Incentives from Physicians, Insurance Companies Could Significantly Increase Use of Health Wearables

Health wearables and fitness tracking devices have created an unprecedented opportunity for the healthcare community to collect valuable data that could greatly impact patient care and health insurance premiums. Still, adoption rates for such devices remain low in the U.S. adult population.

While the use of health and fitness tracking devices has more than doubled in the last two years, a new nationwide survey conducted by TechnologyAdvice shows that only 25.1 percent of adults are currently using either a fitness tracker or a smartphone app to monitor their health, weight or exercise. However, the survey also shows that nearly half of those not using such a device would be more likely to use one if it were provided free by their physician or health insurance company.

“Healthcare providers and health insurance companies are two of the largest stakeholders in the promotion of fitness tracking devices, and they have an opportunity to greatly influence their use,” said the report’s author, TechnologyAdvice managing editor Cameron Graham. “This survey revealed there are few real barriers to using health wearables, and also indicated adoption rates would increase if their use was incentivized by the healthcare community. If healthcare providers worked in tandem with health insurance companies, both stakeholders could benefit from the collected population health data.”

Nearly 44 percent of respondents did not have a specific reason for not tracking their fitness, while another 27.2 percent cited a simple lack of interest in wearing a fitness tracking device. Cost, data privacy, and device design did not prove to be overly impactful concerns. With these limited barriers to use, almost half (48.2 percent) of non-tracking adults said they would use a free fitness tracking device provided by their physicians, while 46.1 percent said they would use one provided for free by their health insurance company.

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