March 28, 2017

As tech continues to improve – from more nimble software to tinier hardware – we’re on the cusp of a wearable renaissance. Last week, Motiv partnered with Target Open House to explore changes in the wearables industry and dig into what makes wearable tech a reality, the challenges to overcome and the anatomy of the next wave of devices. Moderated by Dan Tynan, writer at The Guardian, the panel featured our cofounder and CTO Curt von Badinski as well as three other respected leaders from the tech world – Becky Oh, President and CEO at PNI Sensor Corporation; Jon Thomas, Cofounder and CTO at Minna; and Paul Yeh, Partner at Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers.

All four panelists, with moderator Dan Tynan

Here are four key takeaways:

Wearables are not dead!
As panelist Paul Yeh put it, wearables aren’t dead, wearables 1.0 are dead. Last year there was a big slowdown in the wearables market. New devices that made a big splash when they were first released slowed in popularity as consumers started having higher expectations. There’s evidence that people see the value in tracking their activity and better understanding their health. There’s a need. The market hit an all-time high in the fourth quarter of 2016. But the biggest issue is long term user adoptability: Over half of those who buy a fitness tracker lose interest and discontinue use. The panelists all agreed there are exciting times ahead for the wearable industry.

Wearables need to address the reasons consumers discontinue use.
Most wearables we see today are wrist-based. They don’t fit, aren’t comfortable, or the design aesthetic isn’t compatible with consumers’ lifestyles. As our cofounder Curt explained, we believe these are critical components for sustained adoption that are missing from the wearables we see today. Aside from a better design and more comfortable form factor, panelists also discussed the software experience wearables need to deliver. Consumers now expect for wearables to do more than just spit out data.

Form factors other than wrist-based are likely to be more successful.
As panelist Jon Thomas pointed out, for many consumers, the wrist is prime real estate. Likely it’s occupied already by a watch or piece of jewelry. In fact, two of our 4 panelists, Paul and Becky, were both sporting stylish watches. Aside from style, many consumers prefer not to wear anything on the wrist, especially a rubber tracking device, because they find them uncomfortable. Panelists discussed examples of other form factors that better fit daily life, such as rings, activity tracking shoes, or shirts with heart rate monitors. As Paul Yeh posited, if you look at what you have on in the shower, odds are the only thing you’re wearing is a ring. To depart from the wrist form factor revolves heavily around advances in technology – both hardware and software. Becky spoke to some of the technology advancements that we’re seeing with sensors that are helping make this possible.

Where the wearable space is at now is akin to when we shifted from desktop computers to laptop.
Panelists agreed that in 10 or 20 years we’re going to see much smaller devices, or technology that’s integrated into materials beyond traditional hardware. This could mean smart contact lenses or implantables – or as panelist Becky Oh suggested, a more heavily integrated Internet of Things that takes wearables away from the body and into the tech around us. To echo panelist Jon Thomas – in the future we won’t be talking about wearables, it will just be technology.

Talking wearables with this crew is making our night.

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