The market for wearable technology continues to grow and change as consumers find useful ways to incorporate these products into their lifestyles. According to International Data Corporation, total shipments of wearable devices rose to 23 million units in the third quarter of 2016. Questions have emerged, however, about how manufacturers will bolster the usefulness and popularity of digital health products to maintain high sales and expand the base of consumers around the world.
Current market trends suggest the key to success in wearable technology will be ongoing product design innovation and specialized functionality. Research has provided a peek into what the future may hold for the industry and consumers as devices are more specifically geared to particular needs and activities. Here's what to look for in wearable devices over the coming months and years:
Increasingly specialized design
"The key to success lies in understanding how people use wearables."
The key to success for new product design and development lies in understanding how people use wearables in their daily lives. CCS Insight noted the burgeoning interest in devices that serve only specific functions in health and fitness applications rather than attempting to cover all bases. Analyst George Jijiashvili commented on the findings in a press release.
"In contrast to smartwatches, fitness bands have a very clear purpose in consumers' eyes," Jijiashvili said. "We expect growth on multiple fronts, be that people receiving a device as a gift, buying a fitness tracker for the first time or existing owners upgrading as designs improve and new functionality is added."
As the industry landscape shifts, utility for fitness routines and medical product aesthetics could be a major factor in determining whether individual devices take off in the marketplace. Euromonitor International predicted manufacturers will increasingly focus on providing a variety of devices that emphasize certain uses or consumer preferences. Wearables can be suited to personal needs through optimization for various sports and activities, fashion-conscious appearance, health-monitoring functions and the abilities to communicate with other devices and store information in the cloud.
Greater integration into medical practice
Another driver for the development of digital health products will be the adoption of these devices for clinical purposes. Emerging guidelines for using mobile apps to monitor patients, along with initiatives to institute robust interoperability standards, can pave the way for wearable technology to become a routine part of medical treatment. Because of these possibilities, Gartner identified healthcare as one of the areas of greatest opportunity for the devices.
Seizing the opportunity will require innovative medical products that make it simple for physicians to gather meaningful data and for patients to adhere to their treatment and fitness regimens. Wearables have the potential to be widely employed for monitoring vital signs, updating medical records and keeping patients on the track to recovery. For research purposes, the products can offer fresh insights into how variables like certain lifestyle choices make a difference in people's overall well-being.
In turn, digital medical products may yield better healthcare outcomes. CNBC reported on a few of the advantages that manufacturers hope to see come to fruition as devices advance and are incorporated into treatment and wellness plans. These goals include earlier detection of disease and monitoring patients' condition to assist in managing symptoms.
Further applications in the workplace
Along with the clinical setting, wearable devices could be seen more often at the office. A PricewaterhouseCoopers report suggested the products will be a common part of the work day within a few years. In a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers, 49 percent said they thought the technology would bring greater efficiency, and 37 percent predicted their employers would adopt such devices.
Mobile devices and applications might go to work at the enterprise level in a number of ways. Supervisors could keep tabs on worker performance in the field, while team members would more easily share information with each other, and training processes may be streamlined. Numerous businesses are already taking advantage of the availability of digital health products to administer wellness programs.
There's a wide frontier of possibility ahead for healthcare product design and adoption. Current sales figures and trends give a sense of what changes may occur in the near future. However, further innovation and adaptation to specialized purposes will only unlock new possibilities for digital medical products.