Wearable developers still seeking stable market

Jeff Rowe
Wearable developers still seeking stable market

If there’s one category of health IT that seems an easy fit for the consumer market, it’s wearables.

But while studies show sales of wearables are booming, they also point to a significant drop-off in use after little more than six months.  Writing at Forbes, Reenita Das recently noted that in 2015, the wearables market was worth $1.5 billion.  But at the same time, she pointed out, the wearables market is “a highly volatile marketplace where due to intense competition, there is a revolving door of company entries and exits. In fact, for every 100 wearable technologies, less than 5% make it through that door.”

In her eyes, there are a number of reasons for the instability.  First, she said, the “over engineering” of wearable complicates their development and usage.  “Wearable device makers trying to pack too many bells and whistles actually end up making the product too complicated for the user to understand and maximize its multifaceted applications. End-user research shows that depending on the device, anywhere between 33 to 50% of customers will stop using a purchased wearable within six months.”

Second, too many wearable developers try to emulate companies like Apple and create products capable of operating only on restrictive platforms, “the assumption being that they can then capture the consumer and position other services and applications.”

Next, developers are overlooking the importance to consumers of security and privacy.  And they short shrift the importance of data capture, too.  “Many wearable developers proudly tout the number of biometrics and data points their device is able to capture as a chief selling point,” she said.  But “many of those devices are often found to have a high degree of variability in terms of the accuracy of their captured biometric data versus the information captured from more reliable devices considered to be the gold standards of clinical testing.”

One solution for struggling developers, she argued, is to focus more on providers than on patients when it comes to wearable uses. “Though it is a more complicated path to market . . .,” she said, “a product approved for medical use has a greater potential for delivering on value and long-term staying power.”