The dawn of wearable computing
A wearable computer is an electronic device capable of storing and processing data that is incorporated into a person’s clothing or personal accessories. With this market segment expected to boom, where do the most opportunities lie for retailers and resellers in the region?
The wearable technology market has been treading water lately. While a great sense of anticipation hovers around the Internet of Things, most consumers have been happy to let their increasingly sophisticated smartphones and an infinite range of apps set the pace for mobile accessibility and real-time data interpretation.
Consumer adoption has largely been in niche sectors and has yet to scale the heights of aspiring manufacturers. And in a tech-savvy market like the Middle East, vendors face a challenge in demonstrating the benefits of purchasing wearable devices – from glasses to smartwatches – beyond being first with the latest “must-have” gadget.
Enter the Apple Watch, however, and that looks set to change. Although Android smart watches have been around for a while, the arrival of a brand in the wearable technology sector that is widely agreed to be a useful barometer of consumer taste and adoption trends is likely to shake things up. And for the tech retailers in particular, a new wave of demand should make for lively market conditions.
One of the main problems until recently, has been that product developers have been scrambling so hard to innovate in order to avoid missing the wearables boat that consumers have been left unconvinced by a slew of devices. Applications are now starting to follow through, helping to give the market stronger definition.
“Although we do not currently have data on the wearable segment, our insight has shown that this far, fitness trackers have been one of the more popular and successful wearables,” said Nabila Popal, research manager at IDC MEA. “They are light, well designed, have batteries that last almost a week – and all for a decent price, most of the time.
“These variables, grouped together, have for the most part succeeded in making fitness trackers popular. However, the fear is that once smart watches really kick off, fitness trackers will be greatly affected as consumers are not looking for many devices to do the same thing – but rather, a single device that does everything.”
Popal said that in this light, consumer adoption remains the greatest challenge for vendors in the region.
“Consumers here know what is available, they know who is providing it, and they want it,” she said. “But the issue with wearables is that consumers are not yet convinced they are a must have to make their lives better. And they would be correct. We still need time for these technologies to mature.”
Nevertheless, momentum is building.
At Nexthink, an IT analytics company, which puts the end-user experience at the heart of business computing – and therefore has its finger on the pulse of the consumerisation of corporate IT – EVP Middle East and emerging markets Yassine Zaied pointed out that according to Deloitte forecasts, by 2020 more than 100 million consumers will be wearing smart technology around the world.
“One of the benefits is that wearable technology can gather and transmit data in real-time, all the time,” he said. “We will see the adoption of wearable technology not just for personal use but also for the benefits it can bring to different industries such as healthcare and other verticals.
“For example, wearable devices can collect hundreds of readings per second from thousands of patients. To derive real benefits from wearable technologies, IT analytics solutions are needed to enable healthcare providers to detect patterns in a critical mass of data, make new discoveries and improve patient care.”
It is this demand for the availability of real-time, actionable data which Zaied believes will drive the evolution of smaller, lighter and easy-to-use devices that enable remote patient monitoring for heart rate, breathing and body temperature.
“To embrace the benefits of wearable computing, you no longer need to be a technical expert, IT guru or an engineer to get a complete view of the devices in your IT environment,” said Zaied.
“Users just need access to the information that is pertinent and relevant to do their jobs, and this is where IT analytics solutions bring value. To understand everything end-users are experiencing, IT analytics solutions can keep pace with the volume, variety and velocity of all end-user activity.”
In the wider world of power retail, wearable technology is one of the main sectors to watch this year.
At AJM Kooheji Group in Bahrain, assistant general manager Ali Mohd Akbar Khan, said the Internet of Things (IoT) will be the main focus for consumer electronics, and he expects demand to rise considerably in this segment in the channel.