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Consumers want more from wearables market

Published on 06/11/14 at 08:32am
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The interest in mobile health (mHealth) wearables is gaining traction, but consumers want more affordable devices that offer greater engagement and privacy.

This is according to a recent report by PwC where 80% of the people surveyed, said an important benefit of wearable technology is its potential to make healthcare more convenient.

But there are still concerns regarding data security, with many consumers stating that invasions of privacy and vulnerability are high on their growing list of worries about the equipment.

Vaughn Kauffman the principal at PwC’s Health Industries Advisory Services, says: “Wearable data can be used by insurers and employers to better manage health, wellness and healthcare costs, by pharmaceutical and life sciences companies to run more robust clinical trials, and by healthcare providers to capture data to support outcomes-based reimbursement.

“But it will be critical to address the consumer concerns that we’ve identified, such as cost, privacy, and ease of use.”

The report also found that it appears few users are interested in sharing their health data with others, so manufacturers need to ensure privacy policies are very clear – especially if the technology becomes integrated with e-medical records.

In September Pharmafile reported that Apple, who unveiled its new Apple Watch this year, warned developers: “Don’t share data you’ve collected using [its] HealthKit.”

This caution warning came immediately before news leaked that the US company’s iCloud had been hacked leading to images of various celebrities being stolen. This led to many questioning the safety of cloud-based services in general, not just Apple servers.

A growing market?

When the Apple Watch is released in 2015 it will come with an app that promises to calculate all manner of data including heart rate, calories burned and other metrics.

Priced at around $349 (£215) the wearable device will enter a $2 billion market joining the likes of Samsung, Motorola, Sony and now Microsoft who released its own device in October.

Products like fitness bands, smart watches and other wearables currently sit in an undeveloped but potentially lucrative market, with many having already underdelivered in terms of expectations.

According to the PwC report, 20% of US adults own wearable technology with one in 10 using it every day. Of those who purchased a device more than a year ago, crucially – 33% no longer use it today.

“Inconsistency of data remains one of the top challenges for wearable technologies. For wearables to be effective across both primary and secondary devices there needs to be an established frequency of measurement,” says Mike Pegler, principal at PwC US technology practice.

In October Samsung revealed its UK sales forecast for Christmas 2014 and it says the UK will spend £105 million on fashion electronics. The South Korean company has predicted smartwatches to grow by 667% this year, increasing the overall predicted worth of the wearables sector in Europe to £924.2 million.

Whilst the wearables sector is expanding, concerns over affordability, privacy and longevity are still very much topics that need to be addressed by makers – not simply because the budget spent on these wearable devices in the healthcare sector is set to increase from $2 billion today – to $41 billion by 2020 according to research by tech reports firm Soreon.

But the potential for this type of technology in the industry will only be realised if companies engage with and hook consumers, this will in turn then be driven by the users who can focus on improving healthcare outcomes.

Tom Robinson

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