Within six months of purchase, one-third of consumers put their wearable activity monitors in the sock drawer to never pick them up again. While this has been the general consensus of several user surveys, IHS does not believe this tells the full story surrounding engagement, nor does it serve as a predictor of future uptake for wearable monitoring. This is due to the fact that the predominant reason for low long-term engagement is a lack of meaningful application of data to either solve a compelling health problem or significantly improving one’s general health and physical appearance, thus forming a habit. To achieve the latter goals, you need to include proper nutrition as part of the strategy as 10,000 steps per day will not counterbalance even one extra doughnut. At Wearables TechCon 2015 in Santa Clara, California, a number of presenters discussed the latest innovations in development boards and platforms, battery efficiency, wireless charging, 3D printing for enclosures, cloud services, and safety compliance—all of which are important to understand when getting a new product off the ground. However, there were also interesting discussions surrounding user engagement and increasing stickiness. Some of the key points to note include ensuring that convenience, passive data collection, gamification, social elements, and frictionless design are part of the strategy, as well as the clinical efficacy of the data and obtaining a doctor’s recommendation if appropriate. Whether or not the last two points can be obtained in a realistic timeframe often determines whether a new product follows a general ‘fitness’ route to market, or follows the more lucrative medical path. For most people, solving a compelling health problem is in the hands of the medical community, and while health providers are actively making an effort toward integrating patient generated data, it will take time before data from wearable technologies become a regular component of patient care. For now, providers and payers focus their attention on solutions that deliver short-term cost savings, and activity monitors most definitely do not fall in that category.
Recent developments in networked fitness solutions attempt to increase engagement in fitness and wellness wearables through interoperability of data and platform continuity. This is evident based on announcements made at the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) trade show held at the Los Angeles Convention Center in March 2015. Amer Sports, the parent company of Precor and Suunto, announced the integration of Suunto’s Movescount platform with Precor’s networked fitness solution Preva. In simple terms, data captured on Suunto devices is interoperable with Precor fitness consoles. Sportsclubs and gyms then have access to all of this data, and are able to perform analytics and assess their members’ fitness more effectively. Most next-gen fitness consoles are connected and provide data continuity with a number of health data aggregation platforms such as MyFitnessPal and others. Health data aggregation platforms have increasingly become device agnostic. Companies such as Under Armour have made it an essential part of their strategy to provide device agnostic and interoperable platforms for activity monitoring. The company recently announced a partnership with HTC in relation to HTC’s first wearable device, Grip, and is generally betting big on platforms with its recent acquisitions of Endomondo and MyFitnessPal for $475 million and $85 million, respectively.
The ultimate goal is to get people off the couch, and for these people to retain healthy habits. Simply acquiring a device will not drive behavioral change in most people, but the advice of authority figures will. As mentioned earlier, physicians are perceived as an integral part of engagement given their role in providing healthcare. The same authority belongs to fitness trainers, lifestyle coaches and others in this field. The use of data from multiple sources, one being activity monitors, allow for a more thorough assessment of activity levels. As this data is meaningfully used by physicians and trainers, it will contribute to improved outcomes. Using a current level of long-term device engagement to evaluate the future success of wearable technologies for fitness and wellness purposes is premature at this point in time.
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