For US online adults, wearable technology is no longer the stuff of myth. Over the past year alone we’ve witnessed the launch of the Apple Watch and iterations on early wearable products. Wearable devices are now making their media cameo across a variety of channels and topics ranging from politics to pop culture.
According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® survey data, around one-fifth of US online consumers use a wearable gadget. While the adoption rate is higher among young, wealthy males, wearables are already breaking into segments that aren’t typically considered among the early adopters. Most individuals tend to use the technology for health- and fitness-related activity; however, consumers demonstrate a growing interest in using wearables for several different functions:
Few consumers categories have seen the explosive adoption that wearables have - especially fitness wearables.The category has gone from zero to tens of millions in sales in less than five years.
Without smartphones, however, the wearables market is likely nothing more than a fad for devoted athletes and passionate (or overzealous) weekend warriors. Smartphones have fueled growth in two core ways:
Mass adoption of smartphones made the components cheap.
Apps allowed for and created the engagement (e.g., gamification, competition, support, coaching) consumers need to meet their goals.
I'm packing to leave Paris and it's a hard town to leave. Not only because I managed to catch a glimpse of a Paris sunset last night from the top of Notre Dame, but because I'm leaving LeWeb Paris 2014 while it's still in full swing. There's no denying LeWeb is one of the most invigorating events I've attended. Highlights in the first two days included a candid discussion on Uber with celebrity venture capitalist Fred Wilson and amazing comments from Web founder Tim Berners-Lee on everything from robots to net neutrality to Europe's "right to be forgottten" laws. Most invigorating for me personally was the day one session on wearables. LeWeb invited me to curate this hour-long track as part of its new format, tackling multiple themes in short bursts over several days. Curation required pulling together experts on the topic which was both simple and difficult. Simple because there are some great ones to choose from, difficult because I would have had 10 people on stage if I could have managed it. But that's where the hard task of curation comes in.
The unveiling of the Apple Watch in early September left consumers and industry analysts with more questions than answers. After the sluggish sales of smartwatch predecessors, what is the actual market opportunity for Apple’s wrist-based wearable? Will consumers’ perception of the technology motivate them to make a purchase? And what type of consumer is most receptive to this device?
In my recently published report, I leverage Forrester’s Technographics®360 multimethodology research approach to answer these questions. So far, reaction to the Apple Watch has ranged from skepticism to enthusiasm, and our data shows that the story of Apple Watch adoption is indeed two-sided. Our evaluation of consumer behavior and attitudes reveals an immediate market opportunity for the device as well as psychological barriers to adoption:
However, the story doesn’t end there. Between the advantages and challenges of Apple Watch adoption emerges a third reality, which synthesizes the two. Apple Watch uptake will evolve, with early adopters, motivated by excitement, biting first and a second wave of mainstream consumers – who can see and experience the benefits of the device – buying next.
Forrester has been analyzing device adoption since the launch of its Consumer Technographics® studies in 1997. Over the years, it has become evident that although demographics and attitudes influence technology adoption, these elements alone do not predict consumer behavior – subtle factors like context and psychological needs must be taken into account to piece together the technology adoption prediction puzzle. This is because of two essential contradictions that exist between:
What consumers say they will do and what they actually do: The concept of introspection illusion reveals the discrepancy between stated intent and subsequent behavior. Consumers are bad predictors of their own technology adoption patterns and are often conservative when estimating their own device usage.
What consumers say they want and what they really want: As Steve Jobs famously put it, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” And even then, consumers might not recognize the benefits of the product – needs are transient, circumstantial, and often conflicting.
Wearables are opening up exciting new scenarios for consumers and enterprise users alike, but the wider conversation on wearables has taken a privacy-oriented turn. The New York Timesand WIRED, among others, have covered the emerging privacy concerns associated with wearable devices.
Particular ire has developed against Google Glass. An online activist group, Stop the Cyborgs, opposes Google Glass and related wearables, which the organization says will "normalize ubiquitous surveillance." Stop the Cyborgs offers downloads of anti-Glass graphics for posting in public places and online to spread the message that wearables are inherent privacy violators.
In a major new Forrester report, we present data and insights to help Infrastructure & Operations professionals who are piloting or planning to trial wearables navigate the privacy waters. As a teaser, here are some of our findings:
We talk about the mobile mind shift at Forrester Research -
"The expectation that I can get what I want in my immediate context and moments of need."
Mobile gives us unprecented control over more things in our lives - our schedule, our commute, our thermostat, our finances, etc. Mobile also gives us confidence we need - whether it's knowing we'll be on time or that there is enough money in the bank to cover our next purchase.
I've been connecting stuff not only to get a sense of what works and what doesn't or what is a good experience and what is poor, but also to get a feeling for how much control I get, how I change my behavior, how much more confidence I feel in making decisions and so forth. I've been wearing fitness wearables for almost two years. I'm also collecting data to see what I use, how I use it, what is useful, etc. My dog now wears a pedometer. (More later on that). My husband has one. My friends do.
So - my latest experiment is putting a tracker on a plant - no, not to see where it goes, but to check its health and allow it to talk to me - tell me what it needs.
I'm not sure if the experiment will go much beyond this first week so I'll post some images now.
CES was this past week - look to my colleague's Frank Gillett, JP Gownder or Michele Pelino for more on wearable technology.
A recent opinion piece in The New York Times describes the unique beauty of ecotones, an environmental term for the border between two habitats where cultures merge — where forest meets grassland or water meets shore. According to the article, people are deeply attracted to these areas of convergence and interaction because the edge is where the action is. Like the periphery’s significance in ecology, the edges we create in our society generate energy and are the places we push things to for the best results — borders between diverse urban communities, schools of thought that intersect and cross-pollinate, and, now, our relationship with technology.
Are we ready to live on the edge? Consumers say yes. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® data shows that a tenth or more of US online adults are interested in wearing sensor devices on their wrist, embedded into clothing, embedded in jewelry, or as glasses:
Las Vegas – Hello from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014, an industry gathering point for technology vendors, retailers, partners, media, and industry analysts. Like many, I’m here to meet with the innovators, witness demonstrations, and assess the state of the technology industry in 2014 (and beyond).
As they were at last year’s conference, wearables will be a very hot topic at CES 2014. But in the fast-moving world of technology, a year is a long time. In 2014, wearables will graduate to their 2.0 state. To understand this 2.0 iteration, Forrester released two new reports that clients can read and download. The first is an overarching view of the enterprise aspect of wearable technology, The Enterprise Wearables Journey. The second focuses on wearable health, Building A Fitter Business With Wearable Technology. Let me offer a sneak peak into why Wearables 2.0 is a critical topic.