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The Fate of Smart Watches in the Healthcare Oriented Wearable Technology Space

Smart watches are the latest buzz in the wearable technology space.  Recent launches and rumors have done well in  highlighting the potential of smart watch technology.  The future of the smart watch will no more remain limited to the transfer of apps from smartphones to the wrist.  The utility of the smart watch will extend to solving problems and delivering benefits in a simple and convenient way.

Capitalizing on the high potential markets for smarter healthcare devices and the potential for smart watches to evolve beyond app hosting devices, companies are integrating health monitoring features into smart watches.  A few notable names making a foray into the healthcare oriented smart watches business include Motorola, Samsung and Apple.  Given the strong brand perception and well sourced R&D divisions of these organizations, healthcare oriented smart watches are most likely to take the healthcare devices market by storm.

Judging by the current product offerings in the market, heart rate monitoring seems to be the dominant feature in healthcare oriented smart watches.  Below listed are a few key products currently on offer in the market.

Samsung’s and Motorola’s venture in heart rate monitoring devices:

Samsung and Motorola smart watches have heart rate monitoring features.    Samsung’s Galaxy Gear can track wearer’s vital statistics such as the heart rate and calorie intake.  It has also launched its health app S Health that tracks the number of steps the wearer takes via an in-built pedometer, measures the humidity and temperature of the room and helps in tracking the calorific value of diets.

Recently Samsung demonstrated Simband, a wrist watch that can track vital signs such as the heart rate, heart rate regularity, skin temperature and levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Further, the Simband can upload data directly in the cloud.

Samsung’s rival Apple to respond with Heart monitoring Smart watches

Apple is also rumored to have heart rate monitoring features in its upcoming iWatch.  The Apple iWatch has two LEDs at its base that shine into blood vessels in the wrist and the light is reflected back to sensors on the watch which is then used to calculate the wearer’s pulse.

Seizure Predicting Smart watches by Pebble

Pebble is working on an app that can help measure night time seizures by tracking the frequency, length, and severity of epileptic seizures.  The Misfit app in Pebble smartwatch can measure sleep while helps measure pace, distance, time, strokes and swimming efficiency.  Its Runkeeper app allows user to track run statistics on wrist.    Additionally, InfraV’s smart watch measures glucose level thus enabling the wearer to track his/her fitness levels.

Seeing the recent developments in smart watches one can imagine a healthcare system to be available in near future that can monitor a person’s vital signs throughout the day, store that data for in-depth analysis and can provide alerts to doctors or nurses in case of emergencies.  In future smart watches can help doctors to keep a track of patient’s heart rate remotely and recognize any potential problems before they happen.  A smart watch with emergency alert can automatically warn the patient of a possible health crisis helping in taking preventive action in time

The products currently on offer in the market definitely suggest that smart watches have evolved as convenient health monitoring systems.  More significantly, they are portable, convenient to use and can keep fitness enthusiasts and patients constantly informed on their health conditions.  Nevertheless, pricing and performance will ultimately decide the future of these smart watches.  At the onset, healthcare smart watches seem to have hit the right note in the markets courtesy the entry of rivals Samsung and Apple.  This is because Industry rivalry more than often translates into products with improved features and more affordable pricing levels.

Another factor to watch out for will be the emergence of competing technologies.  For instance, healthcare monitoring smart clothing such as t-shirts with integrated heart rate monitors are being touted as much more convenient with regards to usage and performance as compared to smart watches.  Hence, the growing popularity of smart clothing could probably erode the market share of smart watches.  Hence, both the value perception of smart watches and performance as compared to its technological alternatives will determine the future course of smart watches in the health oriented wearable technology space.

This Blog is written by Anand Shanker, Sr Analyst with DART Consulting.