Why is wearable technology not mainstream yet?


The answer to this question is multi-layered and various factors need to be considered when we think about why wearable technology still caters only to a niche. Projections made by analysts in 2007 about smartphone sales in 2013 were way below their mark. Similarly, though the current wearable tech market is in its infancy, it is tough to make a projection for this. Let us delve deeper into the current state of the market and the products that command it.

Wearables serve only a niche, which is alright with them

Products like FitBit, iWatch, Samsung Smartwatch, and the Oculus Rift are making waves in the tech industry. By interweaving with our daily life, they provide a sort of digital connectedness we associate with sci-fi movies.  Manufacturers know that many consumers discard activity trackers within a year of purchase. So, instead of trying to satisfy a large chunk of consumers, wearable technology is now focusing on more specific groups – adventure sports enthusiasts, basketball players, marathon runners, etc. CES 2015 was where the move to satisfy the niche use case was first seen. The products are meant to do just one thing, really really well. And voila! They serve the niche.

Mobile vs Wearable technology

But will wearable technology become mainstream? Let us try to recall how people made the migration to smartphones – they simply became a one does it all device for us and we didn’t have to change our behaviour or our lifestyles to accommodate them. We were already used to being glued to our phones, remember? Wearable devices demand quite a different level of commitment and time from their users, and there aren’t many cool things you can do with them, yet.

Wearable technology is not new or recent in any way.  In 17th century China, bean counters were used to perform mathematical tasks without using written words by moving tiny beads along nine rows. The first truly wearable computer was built in 1961 by mathematicians Edward Thorpe and Claude Shannon to help them cunningly win at Roulette. In 2004, the first GoPro hero camera was released and today several products command their place in this niche industry. So while products have been coming up, they’re not really habit-forming for a majority of us.

Whether this industry would blossom into a self-sustaining ecosystem like smartphones remains to be seen. Some analysts predict that the wearable tech industry is going to end up being a collection of successful businesses and not so successful ones in the long run and would still not be part of the big leagues. But the niche use case product makers might still carve themselves out a piece of the market where consumers who find a use for them keep coming back. This might just tip the scales in favour of wearables, making them mainstream someday!

Pravir Ramasundaram is our in-house content writer at ContractIQ. Keep coming back to read more from him on mobility & outsourcing.

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