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2017 Outlook: The Future of Wearables and Mobile Tech

Thursday, January 19, 2017   • Posted by Erika Vázquez

It’s no secret that wearables and mobile technology are positioned for growth, but the numerous possible applications make it difficult to foresee what this growth will look like.

In 2016, we saw collaborations, partnerships, novel use cases and explorations. And MC10 is excited to see these new applications and partnerships continue to develop and strengthen in 2017 as wearable technology breaks out from initial concepts and feasibility studies to impact a wider audience and begin to approach its potential.

Health & Wellness

Wearables made their initial splash in the consumer health and wellness space. But last year, Ericsson released a 2016 report affirming that consumers are looking for more than wearables offering just health and fitness. Of the 5,000 smartphone users surveyed across the world (half being wearable technology owners), 50 percent expressed interest in wearable panic buttons and 42 percent were interested in climate control bracelets.

In the response to this new demand, we’ve recently seen wearables that offer consumers ways to track and improve their wellness that moved beyond motion trackers and step-counts. For example:

  • Muse is a headband that helps you meditate
  • LumoLift inspires improved posture
  • My UV Patch tracks your UV exposure

Apps have expanded their horizons as well. In 2016, Lose It!, the weight-loss tracking app, introduced a new feature that enables users to log their food intake by simply snapping a picture of their meal.

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Sports & Fitness

At Consumer Technology Association’s conference CES 2016, fitness wearables stole the show. We saw the introduction of smart clothing for fitness, including:

  • OMSignal’s Ombra, a customizable sports bra that tracks heart rate, breathing and distance
  • Hexoskin’s smart shirt, which connects with other fitness wearables and platforms

CES 2017 already kicked off the year with new connected smart clothing like the Polar Team Pro Shirt, featuring GPS and heart rate tracking.

Most notable for fitness wearables in 2016 was their visibility on professional athletes. Here are just a few examples:

  • Wareable questioned technology’s impact on the NFL
  • The world watched as olympians donned a range of wearables and sensors to help give them an edge at the 2016 games
  • The MLB approved the wear of two devices during games
  • The NBA announced a committee to evaluate the use of wearables during games

There is room for sensing technology to be a game-changer in sports. Sensors that provide athletes information on their sweat levels, their recovery and their performance will prove to be critical tools moving forward. Epidermal electronics (including John Rogers’ wearable microfluidic device for the capture, storage, and sensing of sweat) are poised to make a huge impact in this space.

Organizations like the newly launched Sports Innovation Lab, a Boston-based advisory firm providing sports technology consulting services, will also help to mobilize this revolution.

Clinical Use

In 2015, Apple introduced ResearchKit, inviting medical researchers to take advantage of the giant pool of smartphone users as potential subjects in their studies. In 2016 we began to see results from some of the first studies, including the Parkinson’s study from Sage Bionetworks and Stanford’s MyHeart Counts study.

Last year also laid the groundwork for increased wearable technology adoption in clinical trials with partnerships like IBM and Pfizer’s Project Blue Sky, a research project with the goal of transforming Parkinson’s treatment with wearable sensors. As more of the initial trials incorporating sensors and mobile technology reach their conclusions, like MC10’s collaboration with UCB monitoring Parkinson’s patients in the home, we’ll learn the results from the explorations.

And as pharmaceutical companies and clinical trial innovators begin to embrace wearables, we’ll see as they become valued tools that help lead to improved accuracy and subject experiences.

As Chris Edwards of Validic says, digital health is “one thing you can’t afford to ignore in 2017.”

Entertainment & Brand Engagement

Ideas for brands to leverage wearables have been around for years, but only Disney has really seemed to take full advantage of the technology with the Magic Band. There is plenty of room for wearables to grow in this space.

In 2016, PCH and MC10 announced a partnership to commercialize MC10’s tattoo-like Wearable Interactive Stamp (WiSP™) platform. The WiSP sticker can be customized with brand-specific graphics and can enable a range of consumer interactions like cashless payments, event access and interactive experiences at events. Technology and manufacturing partnerships like this one provide an easily customizable avenue for brands to begin experimenting with new technology and their customer relationships. We’re looking forward to seeing more brands embrace wearables in 2017 as a way to surprise, entertain, and engage with their consumers.

TAKEAWAYS

  • In 2017 we’ll likely see consumers expecting more depth and breadth from their wearables and apps, and technology that strives to keep up and meet those expectations.
  • Wearables and fitness are a pair whose relationship will only continue to strengthen. This year we’ll see as fitness wearables move beyond wristbands for consumers, and we’ll see professional sports organizations begin to seriously incorporate sensors in their regimens.
  • In 2017, we’ll see mobile applications and sensor technology playing a growing role in clinical research as adoption of novel methods increases. We also predict an increase in trials that combine both wearable sensors and mobile applications as complementary tools, taking advantage of the benefits each provides.
  • The untapped potential of wearables for entertainment will start to emerge in 2017 as brands begin exploring the possibilities of customizable experiences and sleek form-factors.

Last year set the groundwork for wearables and mobile technology to take great strides in 2017. Let’s see where it goes!