AWXII Hub: Are Wearables The Future of Healthcare?

By Henry Lau

Wearables have become so popular that even Apple got in on the game with the Apple Watch. According to a recent study, 21 percent of all US adults online use some sort of wearable device. Under Armour has been paying close attention to the momentum in the space, and decided to acquire MyFitnessPal and Endomondo, two fitness and health-related apps, to get access to a lot of fitness and health data without having to build a product that would compete against Apple and Fitbit.

Visa’s VP of Global Client Innovation Marketing, Stephen Root, told me that his company is taking a similar approach. Visa sees itself as a transaction platform and has made itself available on new payment platforms and devices that have emerged for the consumer. Using smartphones as an example, Visa has a Visa Checkout app and is integrated into both Apple Pay and Android Pay. He still doesn’t see any single device or group of devices dominating the wearable space but he believes that Visa will provide payment functionality when that time comes, whether it’s through a wearable or even a connected car.

The battle for control between devices and the data that they create is something that those jumping into the wearables space will have to grapple with in order to move forward. The control device makers will have over the data they generate them will depend on how ubiquitous any single device is. Richard LaBonté, Director of HARMAN Lifestyle’s wearables division, believes that people are still gravitating towards multiple wearables with specialized functions instead of a singular wearable that can do everything. From his experience, he also knows that most of these wearables will end up sitting on people’s shelves when they don’t provide the utility that consumers expected when they purchased them. However, a few will make the cut and those will be the wearables that succeed in the marketplace.

Frameworks for Assessing the Wearable Space

Digitas Health and Mindshare shared their frameworks for evaluating and assessing the opportunities in the wearable space. Geoff McCleary, SVP and Group Director of Mobile at Digitas Health looks at the utility of wearables in three stages: access, aggregation and assistance. Wearables provide access to data that was previously unavailable, such as the number of miles and elevation in a run. This data is then aggregated to provide trend information to the consumer. Finally, wearables can add on extra functionality by providing assistance and recommendations based on these trends.

Jeff Malmad, Mindshare’s Managing Director and Head of its Mobile and Life+ division, sees wearables as a consumer-first opportunity with six different need states. These include:

  • Flow: Wearables can provide a seamless experience, such as the ability to open a hotel door.
  • Reflection: Wearables capture data for later review and processing by the consumer or other apps/services.
  • Value: Brands can add value by providing an incentive that’s tied to data, such as a fitness challenge that provides a reward.
  • Affinity: Wearables can provide unique communication opportunities to other people who have the same exact wearable, such as the Apple Watch’s ability to send heartbeats.
  • Self-Expression: The style of the wearable can make a fashion statement as well.

Malmad’s team applied this framework to a campaign with Degree. It involved a TV integration with “So You Think You Can Dance” and six different wearables. The movement data from these wearables was visualized into unique images that were then shared with Twitter and Tumblr to align with the brand’s tagline, “The More You Move, the More It Works.”

Training for Healthier Living

Perhaps the biggest opportunity that wearables provide is healthier living. In fact, one out of every 10 people who bought a wearable said that their insurance paid for some part of it. Doctors do not have a preferred wearable device; they’re just happy that their patients care about their health and are willing to submit continuous streams of data for processing. In fact, wearable technology is still in such infancy that a lot of the health data collected can be totally off. Nonetheless, one of the first things that many doctors do when they diagnose someone with diabetes is to prescribe them with a health and fitness tracker to make sure they increase their physical activity. If all goes well and enough wearables jump off the shelves, we’ll all start living healthier lives.

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