Health focus to drive $150bn wearable tech future, says PwC

Research indicates wearable use may decline as firms grapple with scale of data

Trying out wearable technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas: nearly 350 million wearable devices will be shipped by 2020, technology sector consultancy Juniper Research estimates. Photograph: Bilgin S Sasmaz/Anadolu/Getty

Trying out wearable technology at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas: nearly 350 million wearable devices will be shipped by 2020, technology sector consultancy Juniper Research estimates. Photograph: Bilgin S Sasmaz/Anadolu/Getty

 

Sales of wearable technology are expected to surge in the coming years, with the market set to reach $150 billion by 2027.

The figures were estimated by market research and business intelligence firm IDTechEX, which found consumers rated healthier eating, smarter exercising and more convenient access to healthcare among the benefits of wearable technology.

The potential to determine the long-term impact of lifestyle decisions made today, could enable a more efficient healthcare system and a healthier future for Ireland

However, research from PwC indicates the effectiveness of wearable technology may decline, as there is no straightforward way to translate the considerable amount of data collected. The firm has developed Bodylogical, a scientifically validated model that uses data collected from wearables and by clinical visits along with other sources to build an individual’s “digital twin”. That in turn will provide health insights to forecast how certain choices – lifestyle, medication and so on – will affect future health.

Biomedical engineers

The model, which was developed by a team of biomedical engineers, scientists, mathematicians, and health industry specialists, provides a safe and cost effective environment to understand the impact of certain choices on our future health and could help change user behaviour.

“By utilising technology to generate data and, in turn, using predictive analytics and forecasting tools to generate insights, entire populations can be encouraged to take more responsibility of their health,” PwC’s senior manager of health consulting Alana McMahon said. “The potential to determine the long-term impact of lifestyle decisions made today, could enable a more efficient healthcare system and a healthier future for Ireland.”

Separate research from technology sector consultancy Juniper found the wearables market was shifting away from simple wrist-based devices, with connected clothing, smart glasses and smart jewellery expected to see a rise in sales in the coming two years.

A key challenge for wearables is to provide a concrete benefit or unique data

Nearly 350 million devices will be shipped by 2020, Juniper said, with 137 million smartwatches and activity trackers expected to ship this year.

Lengthening lifecycle

Growth is expected to slow however, delayed by a lengthening lifecycle of devices, fewer new features and a software focus. Connected clothing, however, will be lifted by developments in conductive fabric, with smart sportswear from companies such as Sensoria, Lumio and Under Armour contributing to growth.

Alongside these new devices will be a development in software and data services.“A key challenge for wearables is to provide a concrete benefit or unique data. All our top growth segments either provide in-depth data from specialised form factors, or benefits that do not involve data at all,” said research author James Moar.