More and more consumers are turning to wearable technology powered by the Internet of Things. Through devices such as smartwatches, Oura rings, virtual reality headsets and others, users can monitor their health, track sleep patterns, explore new worlds, navigate new surroundings and much more.
However, while the potential of wearable tech may be nearly unlimited, its actual future may not be if certain shortcomings and concerns aren’t addressed soon. Below, 15 members of Forbes Technology Council discuss factors that could delay or derail the continued growth of wearable tech.
1. A Lack Of Regulatory Oversight
Like most tech industries, the Internet of Things is not yet heavily regulated. The lack of oversight regarding the privacy of collected data is a big concern for consumers, especially when that data is collected by the government. There’s a huge lack of transparency in how data is sold to third parties, and wearables have the most access to our daily lives. – Nik Froehlich, Saritasa
2. Overlooking Sound
When it comes to the wearable industry, everyone is overlooking the idea of sound and only focusing on sight. Both components are equally as important and must be prioritized. If we don’t remember that humans should come first and technology second, the industry might fail to see widespread adoption. – Dr. John Fan, Kopin Corporation
3. Need For Always-On Connectivity
Always-on connectivity remains the biggest challenge for wearable tech. Today, these solutions are handcuffed by accessing a single network technology (Wi-Fi or Bluetooth or cellular and so on). The future is hybrid, and wearables must be able to access multiple networking technologies to ensure true “always-on” connectivity (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and cellular and so on). eSIM and iSIM incorporation will help solve this. – Michael Johnston, Teal Communications, Inc.
4. Minimal Developer Participation
Increased awareness of wearable tech is definitely leading to increased adoption. However, the pace of developer participation has to pick up soon to create a strong base of use cases and develop an industry that’s similar to the app economy. – Ganesh Sundaram, Alef Innovations
5. The Lack Of Data Transfer Standards
The lack of standards for communicating data from wearables could derail growth. While wearables can provide real-time insights into consumer health, working with vendors’ proprietary output is a challenge. The volume is too high to cost-effectively transmit individual readings, so a standards-based way to request aggregations is needed to make the data actionable and separate signal from noise. – Eric Rosow, Diameter Health
6. Data Silos
There seems to be an emerging data silos trend. Devices from the different manufacturers aren’t so great when it comes to interoperability or sharing data (such as health data) among different organizations to derive the benefits. While data security is always a priority, perhaps we should be looking to blockchain technology to enhance data management. – Bankim Chandra, Dotsquares LLC
7. Growing Consumer Privacy Concerns
Consumer privacy is a significant challenge when it comes to the success of IoT devices. In many cases, consumers don’t know how much information they are sharing by wearing these devices, and not all companies are taking their stewardship of consumer data seriously enough. This will become a problem for companies and consumers as the sector grows. – Ken Knapton, Progrexion
8. Slow Pace Of Innovation
A challenge may be keeping up with what’s “cool”—by which I mean innovation. In a hyperconnected world, it is already challenging enough to keep Gen-Z engaged, and Gen Alpha (those born in and after 2010) will get bored even faster. As an example, innovation in the smartwatch industry has been very incremental in the last five years—the wearable industry needs sustainable innovation at speed. Design ignorance combined with the increased cost of privacy are issues where the wearable industry won’t be spared. – Prasanna Singaraju, Qentelli
9. The Need To Protect Consumer Data
If any IoT company leverages or sells user data in a way that doesn’t prioritize user security, we’ll see an immediate shift toward more regulations around how these companies collect and maintain data. Making sure companies are protecting user data—not using it for purposes not expressly agreed to—is the most important thing to get right as we continue to embrace wearable tech. – Lewis Wynne-Jones, ThinkData Works
10. Not Prioritizing User Satisfaction
Wearable tech developers need to concentrate on look and feel. Steve Jobs was a true genius in starting with user satisfaction—that is, focusing on the look, feel and functionality of a device and then working backward to ensure the engineering could meet these user preferences. IoT/wearables have to adopt this method to be competitive. Prioritize the look, feel and functionality, then work backward. – Marc Fischer, Dogtown Media LLC
11. A Slowing Or Stoppage Of The Flow Of Data
The fuel powering IoT is data. With significant market saturation, the biggest threat to the industry’s growth is a fuel shortage. If regulation stops or slows the flow of data to these technologies, there would be a significant reduction in value creation. The IoT industry, therefore, needs to emphasize data security and show an ability to self-regulate, making legislative action unnecessary. – Nicholas Domnisch, EES Health
12. Latency Caused By Low Bandwidth
One factor impeding the growth of IoT/wearable tech is bandwidth. IoT tech’s efficiency is mainly tied to how fast devices can communicate with each other. With latency induced by low bandwidth, the advantages that IoT tech brings over centralized alternatives cannot come into play. – Chintan Shah, Brainvire InfoTech Inc.
13. The Need For Frequent Charging
The competition to integrate more functionality into IoT devices, especially watches, can lead to devices that cannot function for long without being recharged or permanently plugged in. It’s important to design within these limitations and guide the user to not overextend their devices for too long so that they can remain functional until they have time to recharge. – Luke Wallace, Bottle Rocket
14. The Need To Evolve To Address Additional Everyday Needs
With tech, the platforms that stick are the ones that reach everyone, breaking the barriers of age, gender and income and catering to basic human needs. Wearables must reach the masses, help us get better and evolve as our needs evolve. Today we use wearable devices to track our heath; tomorrow we might use them to manage our electric vehicles. Without reach and evolution, growth will be questionable. – Deepak Garg, Smart Energy Water
15. Potential Health Issues And Concerns
The factor that can have the largest negative impact on the growth of wearable technology is potential health issues and concerns, whether real or perceived. While wearable tech devices are bringing additional comfort and practicality to our lives, consumer interest can quickly drop at the first suspicion that a device or technology is not completely safe for human health. – Peter Abualzolof, Mashvisor