By Heather Andrus, Managing Director at Radius Silicon Valley and Radius Digital Prototype Lab

Sep 15, 2017The wearables market is poised for a meteoric rise fueled by rapid technology advancements, a burgeoning Internet of Things ecosystem, and evolving consumer trends. According to IDC, 72 million wearable devices will be shipped this year, up more than 173 percent from 2014. Shipment volumes are expected to grow at at an annual rate of 43 percent over five years to reach 156 million by 2019.

As demand intensifies for consumer lifestyle and healthcare innovations, expect a wave of new products to flood the market. Will yours be one of them?

I believe the most successful vendors, app developers, and accessory makers are integrating one or more of the following attributes into their formulas for winning wearables.

1.  An Emerging Ecosystem
Companies that take advantage of a hardware-software ecosystem to deliver end-to-end solutions are gaining momentum. Today, the Disney Magic Band shines in this category for its ability to connect visitors effortlessly with every part of their experience at Walt Disney World Resort. The all-in-one device can be used to enter the park, unlock your hotel room, as well as buy food and merchandise – even jump a ride line with FastPass+. This piece of Disney magic is enabled by an RF network and hardware connectivity grid that links visitors with the vacation itinerary selected online.

Look for similar applications on cruise ships and other resort destinations. We might also expect to see them in smart cities, as major municipalities, urban business centers, and retail shopping districts debut heightened ways to connect people, places, and things.

2. 

 Data Analytics
Some of the most interesting wearables today analyze massive amounts of sensor-generated data using proprietary algorithms to generate meaningful, actionable insights. Such is the case with the Lumo Lift, which tracks, collects, and correlates data on your posture and then reminds you to stand up straight, so your mother doesn’t have to.

3.  Data Visualization
With clear, concise data visualization, companies can turn data into valuable knowledge. Jawbone does a great job with its easy-to-understand dashboard of insights from activity, sleep, and food tracking. Additionally, Jawbone’s Smart Coach gives consumers personalized tips and advice that become more relevant and tailored over time as sensors gather more personalized information.

4.  Data Community
Community is important, especially among users of fitness wearables. Sharing goals, milestones, and roadblocks with other users can motivate and inspire. Runtastic not only provides the prerequisite activity trackers, it connects consumers with an internal community and integrates with various social networks.

With fitness and healthcare wearables, community is proving to be a powerful catalyst for change. Fitness enthusiasts can cheer on each other and rally around those who are seeking to improve their health.

5.  Sensor Convergence
The Apple Watch is probably the highest-profile converged wearable. So far, analysts have found what appear to be a minimum of 10 different sensors. What matters less than the number of sensors is how their data is blended together. Linking different kinds of sensors produces rich, contextual data and new associations among variables.

Peerbridge Health is developing the next generation of wearable wireless vital-sign monitoring technology. Sensor-generated data for monitoring ECG heart rate and rhythm is combined with respiratory rate data to draw correlations and associations. As more sensors come together, new insights are gained.

6.  New Sensors, New Uses
You can drive innovation by adding new sensors. Or you can use existing sensors in new ways. For instance, BSX Insight is an athletic training device that measures lactate thresholds using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) sensors to measure oxygenation of the blood. This data then is mapped to lactate levels to look at a new type of data – lactate threshold – and how it factors into measuring an athlete’s performance and fitness levels.

7.  Attachment Types and Locations
Why do wearables have to be on our wrists or our faces? Expect new places to attach wearables, and new ways. Athos, a pioneer in smart fitness apparel, has created workout shirts and shorts embedded with 22 EMG sensors to measure muscle activity, heart rate, and respiration – all in real time.

Traditionally, EMG machines were reserved for elite athletes as they cost upward of $15,000. Not only is Athos putting this technology within consumers’ reach; it is introducing a new caliber of “smart” workout clothes.

8.  Don’t Just Think Different – Be Different
Companies that will emerge as frontrunners in the white-hot wearables market must be multitaskers. It won’t be enough to just innovate on one plane. As the race to market escalates, I’m confident that products embodying combinations of the aforementioned attributes will stand out in a sea of wearables.

HEATHER ANDRUS has worked in strategic, multi-industry innovation and product development for over 20 years and leads the Radius and Digital Prototype Lab teams in the innovation hub of Silicon Valley, CA