Wearable tech is maturing, and the near future will yield devices that offer medical-grade insights and feel dramatically different from those of today.
That's the theme from our panel of wearable technology insiders - the people making and developing the next generation of wearables.
We asked founders, CEOs, and insiders from the wearable technology top table what they thought were the biggest themes that would emerge in the industry in 2023 and 2024.
The consensus is that wearables have more to offer than the stock health metrics we have today. And they will evolve from basic tracking to offer holistic overviews of our health, and even bring true medical care to the home – even reducing the burden on medical services.
As a side note: an incredibly male selection was put forward for this piece, so stay tuned for our separate feature highlighting female wearable insiders.
More actionable insights
Eric Friedman - Fitbit co-Founder and VP of research at Google
"Wearables have made incredible advances in sensor technology over the years and, today, provide consumers with huge amounts of data and insights about their health and wellness.
From the potential to detect chronic diseases like AFib to measuring stress levels and tracking sleep, wearables are about so much more than counting steps.
This data is most impactful, though, if it is actionable and shows users how they can improve their metrics - and themselves. We’ll start to see more and more wearables going beyond the data itself to show consumers how they can interpret and use their data to change behavior and improve wellbeing.
At Fitbit, we’re taking a holistic approach to help consumers make their data more actionable, making connections across metrics, like how stress, sleep and activity all impact each other and what a user can do to live better and feel better.”
Further reading: Fitbit co-founder discusses where the company goes next
More focus on women’s health – and wearables moving beyond 'health trackers'
Tom Hale - Oura CEO
"McKinsey & Co reported last year that just 1% of the roughly $200 billion spent on healthcare research and development focuses on women’s health.
We’re now starting to see a bigger emphasis on how wearables can propel women’s health forward.
Oura's women’s health research and features, such as Period Prediction and Cycle Specific Activity Insights, are just the beginning of a long-term investment in women’s health and reproductive health.
And linked to this, in the next year, we’ll see more wearables focus on research validation and FDA clearance.
With more and more devices entering the wearable space, consumers, organizations, and medical professionals alike are increasingly looking for reliable wearables that will provide accurate health data.
The science and tech communities will continue to work together to validate and improve their hardware, software, and algorithms.
We’ll also see wearable companies begin to go beyond the "health tracker" label and may start to see wearable options level up to diagnostic territory. This will also drive a transition from reactive to proactive healthcare through continuous health monitoring.
Non-invasive monitoring of new types of biometric data such as glucose measurements or heart health measurements such as blood pressure could also see significant progress in 2023."
Further reading: How the big wearables brands are tackling cycle tracking
Fashionable watches delivering medical grade insights
Brook Eaton - VP of Product at Fossil Connected Devices Group
"Smartwatches continue to improve on wellness-related data capture, a result of a continued priority from consumers in supporting their everyday health and wellness.
By the end of 2024, we anticipate the potential for most consumers to be able to offer this data to their doctors.
While we’ve heard about this tie-in of wearables and medical teams for some time now, it has not been widely available, as the third-party systems making these connections continue to develop their apps and services.
We feel the biggest driver in achieving 24/7 wearability and longer-term wellness insights from users – once these services mature – is, first and foremost, having a smartwatch design that’s fashionable and comfortable, along with the right feature set to support users' everyday wellness."
Further reading: Brook Eaton on the future of Wear OS smartwatches
More creative wearable form factors
Andreas Zimmer - Head of Product Europe at Huawei Consumer Business Group
"The pandemic has increased awareness among people to actively track things like heart rate and steps, so we will see more wearables on more wrists.
Simultaneously, advanced sensors like blood pressure or temperature will find their way into more devices, encouraging first-generation wearable users to upgrade to more capable smartwatches.
Finally, advances in microtechnology enable more creative wearables, that go beyond the classic smartwatch form factor. This could be a growth in 2-in-1 devices like the Huawei Watch Buds, which combines true wireless headphones with a sleek smartwatch. This could be just the beginning of making wearables even more useful."
Further reading: Most exciting smartwatches set for 2023
Features that translate data to behavior change
Will Ahmed - WHOOP Founder/CEO
"Consumers in this post-pandemic period have moved on from technology that just tracks workouts or measures caloric burn. In the aftermath of the pandemic, they are much more sophisticated.
People want technology that can actually lead to better outcomes in sleep, illness prevention, and happiness. We’re very clear that, at WHOOP, we are not selling a simple piece of hardware. We’re offering our members a 24/7 performance coach that improves every aspect of their life.
After using WHOOP for 10 weeks, our members get more sleep, have lower resting heart rates, exercise more frequently, and have higher heart rate variability.
Over the next two years, consumers will demand more features that help them translate data into behavior change."
Further reading: Will Ahmed talks about future Whoop features
Wearables starting to transition healthcare to the home
John Mastrototaro - Movano Health
"I believe that the major trend of the next two years is this blurring of the lines between medical devices and consumer devices.
There are a lot of other chronic conditions or just even preventative care, which need to transition to the home.
I believe the time is right to transition health care more to the home with devices that are simple to use that provide very concise information that's understandable. These pearls of wisdom will help people understand the state of one's health and be able to take more active control over their health.
It's less costly to have medical-grade wearables used at home. It's less burdensome for that consumer to learn more about their health in their home and not have to schedule a doctor's office visit to do that.
And in general, it's less costly for the healthcare system, too."
Biowearables delivering unprecedented health insights
Matt Bates, Divisional Vice President of R&D, Abbott
“Consumer biowearables are the next evolution of health tech, looking to be one of 2023’s defining wearable tech trends.
While traditional wearables sit on top of the skin, biowearables – which have been used in the medical space for years – go a level deeper. This means that they are able to track key biomarkers inside the body, such as glucose, ketones, and lactate, helping people decipher their body’s unique code and giving them power over their health and wellness.
Biowearables for people with diabetes – like continuous glucose monitors – have proven that data helps drive behavior change.
Similarly, consumer biowearables being developed today could one day offer an unprecedented understanding of the impact of diet, exercise, and lifestyle on our wellbeing.”
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