Wearable Technology Show: Digital narcissism in health

March 26, 2014
3 min read

In the third part of a week long series of blog posts, Senior Trends Consultant Richard Cope reports back from the inaugural Wearable Technology Show at London’s Olympia, examining the devices on show and the recurrent themes and human needs that bind them.

Consumers are most conscious of wearable technology in the exercise space through devices like Fitbit and Nike+ and this show offered a host of sensor enhanced sportswear and wearable health tracking devices. The recent announcement of Apple’s Healthbook app has only served to confirm that health monitoring will continue to be the major driver of the wearables industry.

According to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) the appetite is there. Its US studies shows that interest in purchasing wearable fitness devices in the next 12 months quadrupled to 13% during 2013 and Fitbit’s EMEA VP Gareth Jones argues that the obesity crisis will compel UK consumers to act in the same fashion. These devices target a demographic occupying a middle ground between keen athletes and slothful ‘sedentaries’, who want to literally take – and measure – small steps towards better fitness.

The key challenge for the industry though, is to keep consumers ‘stepping it up’ beyond the initial honeymoon period after they’ve purchased their device. According to a candid Kip Fyfe, CEO of sports technology firm 4iiii, “70% don’t use data and devices beyond a year”.

This is why we’re seeing a flood of smart apparel hit the market, from AiQ’s ‘Bioman’ platform that uses existing apps to monitor vital signs and performance, to Stepsss’s prototype smart insoles that monitor your running style as well as your running performance.

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Stepsss / AiQ

Smartlife is a sports apparel brand working with ex-Premiership footballer Kevin Campbell to promote the value of sensors that measure muscle output, breaths per minute and heart rate and rhythm. On the latter functionality, Campbell asserts that this can prevent scenarios like the one where Bolton Wanderers footballer Fabrice Muamba almost died on the pitch after collapsing due to an undetected heart condition.

Protection is a key component of wearables, and Steve Power Brown’s armour analogy holds true. Reebok has acknowledged similar concerns in to the form of its wearable Checklight device that measures the severity of head impact injuries in sport.

Wearables fit well with the concept of protection: ‘hands free’ is supposed to be about safely freeing us up to concentrate on our surroundings equals safe, whilst smart watches are positioned as devices securely fixed to our wrists and we’ve also seen Nymi’s bracelet that only activates once it recognises the user’s pulse pattern.

Health and protection come together on the wrist in the form of Sunsprite and SunFriend’s monitors that aim to both optimise Vitamin D intake and protect against exposure to harmful levels of UV.


Before we leave behind the concept of protection, we should consider how wearable technology exposed to the elements needs to look after itself and not just the wearer. Keeping devices dry and preventing corrosion is going to be big business and we’re seeing companies like HZO and P2i develop nanotechnology to apply film barriers to protect internal device electronics so that they will continue to work when submerged in – or exposed to – water.


If you would like to know what these trends – and others – mean for your business please contact Richard to discuss our trend presentation, project and facilitation services. E-mail: rcope@mintel.com; Twitter @Richard_Mintel

Richard Cope
Richard Cope

Richard is a Senior Trends Consultant, bringing the latest consumer trends to Mintel clients through bespoke presentations and represents Mintel at global conferences.

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