Wearable, Smartwatch Capabilities Converging

Not all smart wrist wearables are created equal, but they may be heading in that direction.

For example, there are fitness trackers and there are healthcare trackers.  And then there are smartwatches.

Early on, each had their own specialized functions and associated marketing messaging.

Fitness wearables, like market leader Fitbit, have been used primarily for the tracking of biometric signals, like steps taken, distance traveled and heart rate. The intent is to improve general fitness.

Healthcare wearables, like those from Philips Healthcare, are used by consumers to track biometrics for personal health reasons, some of which can be relayed to a healthcare professional.

Many fitness wearables now offer notifications, such as text messages that appear on the wearable, negating the need to take a phone out of a pocket or purse. Those functions used to be reserved for smartwatches.

The miniaturization of components is enabling more capabilities to be inserted into more types of devices.

A new study from Juniper Research has identified some of the factors driving the convergence of capabilities into the different types of wearable devices.

There are different drivers based on the device, according to Juniper. Here are the wearable category convergence drivers:

  • Fitness wearable brands – Less capable devices developing upwards, as fitness-focused wearables and analog watches add notifications functionality or traditional watches add connecting features
  • Watch brands – Providing additional tracking features that do not compromise the aesthetic of the device, with additional connectivity and sensors
  • Smartwatch brands – Adjusting their bill of materials to be lower, or focusing on fitness as an established use case

Juniper forecasts that overall sales of health and fitness wearables hardware will top $21 billion by 2021, so it’s a healthy market.

By the end of last year, only 16% of consumers in the U.S. owned a fitness tracker or smartwatch, according to the latest figures from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

Some serious marketing efforts are going to have to go into helping the 76% of consumers who have no plans to buy a wearable -- whether fitness tracker, health tracker or smartwatch -- to change their mind.


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