Even with a seemingly endless bout of public resistance—you can practically hear the shouts of “what is it for!” from here—wearable technology seems to be proliferating the consumer space with more and more regularity. This budding industry is still experiencing its fair share of growing pains, with many in tech journalism declaring the sphere as dead on arrival. However, according to numbers from the International Data Corporation (IDC), wearable technology experienced a marked increase in the third quarter of 2017, up roughly 7.3% each year.
Wearable technology has been around in various forms for a while now, but this uptick is hinting at a stark push towards more intuitive, advanced wearable tech options, namely devices that are capable of running third-party apps in addition to their own designated functions. This trend is most notable in the acquisition of multiple companies by Fitbit, the San Francisco-based tech company which specializes in activity and fitness trackers. In early 2017, Fitbit acquired two smartwatch-related companies, Pebble and Vector, for a sum total of $38 million.
Wearables: From Fitbit to Apple
The purchases lead to the creation of arguably Fitbit’s biggest product, the Ionic, which has managed to catch up with the company’s biggest competitor, Xiaomi, the Chinese hardware company that momentarily usurped Fitbit’s ranking as provider of low-cost wearable tech. Meanwhile, tech titan Apple has seen a similarly huge surge in sales at 52%, thanks largely to the introduction of their new Apple Watch series 3. The company, which historically leads the industry in revolutionary tech products, is perhaps on the frontlines of wearable technology, thanks to their cloud-equip operating system. With over 90 million iPhone users in America alone, the shared OS family is sure to push those curious about wearable tech right on over to the Apple Watch.
The key during this period of relative infancy is, above all else, the price point. Apple has the benefit of name recognition (and for a good chunk of the country, if not the world, a desire to keep new tech all within the same family) but for other competitors, price is the name of the game. Xiaomi’s growth has stalled largely because its product is successful almost exclusively in its native China, yet it provides notable competition to companies like Fitbit due mostly to its reasonable price point. The company shot up 156% this past year alone to fourth place on the sales charts, zooming past American company Garmin.
Wearable technology might seem like a somewhat frivolous investment today, but experts predict that by 2022 it will be fully immersed into our day-to-day lives. Much of this coincides with the uptick in technology and health, which wearable tech is able to most fully immerse into its operating software. Fitbit’s popular Ionic model has seen success thanks to its attractive time piece, its ability to store music, as well as a GPS that allows for a number of potential app-developments down the line. But it is fundamentally an item meant to aid health and working out. This highly specified but growing industry might serve as a benefit for some questionably successful attempts at wearable technology, most notably glasses, which has seen some mild success in Snapchat’s Spectacles and some less-than-stellar success in Google’s since-retired-but-potentially-returning Glass project.
Nevertheless, wearable technology’s eventual stronghold on the marketplace might take place through more highly specified means, at least initially. Much attention is being paid to tech that serves as replacements or compliments to smartphones, but if devices such as NeuroMetrix’s Quell – therapeutic pain reliever worn as a leg band – can get FDA approval for over-the-counter sales, there is no saying how far wearable technology could go. If we are what we wear, maybe what we wear needs to know us better.
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