Wearable technology, one of the most ground-breaking innovations of the modern age, has set a novel trend in itself. Some of its popular end-products are Smartwatches, Fitbit, Smart glasses, Hearables, Head-mounted displays, Sports watches, Fitness trackers, and temperature controllers.

“The total number of connected wearable devices around the globe was 325 million in 2016. This number shot up to 835 million in 2020 and is predicted to exceed one billion by 2022.”

Wearables are considered as one major category of IoT because of the smart life-changing applications that it provides. The only difference is that, unlike most IoT mobile apps, a corresponding wearable app can work independently of a mobile app and this offers more flexibility to users. Yet, many wearable apps can share their load with a companion smartphone app if required.

Wearable Devices

Every technology comes with its benefits as well as challenges; let’s take a look at the same for the wearable apps and devices

Benefits of Wearable Apps & Devices

Healthcare

In 2021, healthcare is a big deal, and in part, therefore, the healthcare industry continues welcoming tech innovations to better safeguard people and improve the delivery of care.

Wireless medical sensors are not entirely new to the health industry. In fact, there are several ways in which sensors have been used in healthcare for years. From body measurements to the quality of sleep, from heart rates to respiratory functions and beyond – the sensors are nearly everywhere. They communicate with each other creating an ecosystem that stores all health-related data about a person. As a result, individuals and their healthcare providers get empowered to monitor their health 24/7 and manage their medical conditions more seamlessly.

However, as wearable technology is becoming more integrated into the average customer’s life, there is no need for wearable apps to be directly connected to medical staff. It is likely that such applications will respond to the retrieved and analysed data with alerts or suggested actions anyway. Receiving feedback, awards, and reminders about one’s health and fitness goals can be satisfying enough.

This promise of complete awareness is a huge part of why the number of people using wearables for health reasons is forecast to steadily grow. Thus, yet in 2018, Accenture conducted a study on digital health services, revealing that 33% of respondents had adopted wearables – compared to 9% in 2014 – and what is more exciting is that 72% of consumers said they would agree to share personal data collected from their wearable devices with their insurance carrier.

Wearable devices used in preventative care, diagnosis, treatment decision-making, and even high-risk care management were estimated to save over $200 billion across all conditions in the US by 2050. Moreover, according to recent research from Insider Intelligence, the number of smart wearable users in the US will reach 72.6 million.

With the ability to track fitness activity, evaluate sleep quality, and measure health data like heartrate or blood oxygen level, wearable devices continue becoming more and more advanced. Today, there are so many things besides step tracking. Similarly, the selection of wearable devices for health monitoring is only widening:

  • Wearable fitness trackers – fitness-tracking smart bands (Fitbit, Jawbone, Runtastic, Garmin, etc.) and smart rings (Oura, Oumij, Motiv, etc.)
  • Smart health watches – smartwatches running Wear OS, Galaxy Watches from Samsung, and Apple Watches from Apple.
  • Body-mounted sensors – a variety of sensors monitoring biological data for healthcare purposes:
    • Wearable ECG monitors
    • Wearable blood pressure monitors
    • Biosensors detecting pulse rate, blood oxygen and glucose levels, muscle oxygen saturation, and more

Although fitness trackers were the first wearable devices to become particularly popular among the broad audience, smartwatches have followed the lead. As a result, they managed to grow into a massively popular staple of the consumer electronics industry and a fixture of the watch industry’s middle market.

Another important component of smart wearable devices used for healthcare purposes is algorithms. Wearable devices powered with an algorithm could alert users when any irregularities in their biological data are detected whether these symptoms signal a specific medical condition’s presence. Algorithms in wearables are the next-gen development that is being extensively studied today.

Gaming Technology

Gaming and technology are inseparable. Moreover, since customer expectations tend to quickly align to new developments in the game design field, the need to continue to grow and achieve more is always there when it comes to game development.

Wearable gaming technologies are exactly one of those developments that have been gaining a lot of attention in recent years. They are not a new thing, and in 2021, they will continue to grow. It all began decades ago with the first prototypes of modern VR headsets. Today, Virtual Reality wearable devices remain one of the most common forms of wearable technology in the gaming industry. Yet, as it was mentioned, customers want their gaming experiences to be better with each new release, so wearable haptic devices are a perfect candidate for the job.

VR Wearables

Virtual reality headsets were the first type of wearables used in gaming. VR gaming headsets and goggles help users immerse themselves entirely in the game. That is why up until now, the most important VR gaming accessory is the one user wear on their heads. The selection of these wearable VR gaming devices is wide enough to fit any budget: from simple VR goggles displaying the simulated 3D game environment to advanced motion-control VR headsets capable of capturing and transmitting full user’s head and eye movements.

Haptic Devices

Another dimension of involvement that wearables can provide in gaming is tactile feedback. In games, touch is engaged through the science of haptics. Video game controllers have been using haptics for nearly two decades already, but incorporating this technology into wearable devices is the next achievable milestone.

Thanks to the recent advancements, gamers can now use wearable devices that provide haptic feedback to the body. Haptic vests, gloves, or suits can make gaming more realistic. Haptic actuators are ultra-thin and small, which enables more exciting interactions with technology and new vivid tactile sensations. The technology is evolving, and therefore, we should look forward to haptics becoming more useful across a wide variety of gaming wearable devices.

Fashion

The fashion industry is just as perceptive to original ideas and innovation as the gaming sector is. Trends come and go, so when anything exciting looms on the horizon, it cannot but be picked up to become somebody’s fashion statement.

Wearable smart devices have taken over the fashion industry and do not seem to move over. Smart garments and accessories are now part of intelligent fashion that combines aesthetics and style with functional technology. There are already quite a number of ways in which wearables are used in the fashion industry. For instance, your smart accessories can change color to match any of your outfits, your smart bag can charge your phone or other USB devices, and your purse can turn on internal lights every time you open it.

Moreover, there is even such thing as smart fabrics that are being increasingly used by famous brands like Levi’s. Their smart apparels are designed to have sensors measuring biometrics. This way, suits, pants, and other clothing accessories turn into wearable devices whose unique fabric can adjust the temperature or even enhance blood flow.

Wearable apps are rapidly taking over the fashion industry. Estimates compiled from multiple sources have it that in 2025, the smart clothing and fabrics market will reach the size of over 5 billion U.S. dollars.

Challenges of Wearable Apps & Devices

Battery Issues

Thinking about ways to expand a wearable device’s battery life is a must for anyone in the wearable business. Wearable devices are normally small and lightweight, so no wonder why battery life has always been such a big issue. So, it is critical for wearable device vendors to design an efficient, high-performing, and long-lasting battery. Yet, wearable app providers have to keep this particularity in mind as well when developing their products.

The market is already highly competitive, and the wearable app that consumes too much battery is not likely to survive. The wearable device software – portable by its nature and nearly always connected to the internet – does not have to make a user recharge the device too often. At the same time, however, this app must be capable of balancing between useful functionality and battery-saving features.

User Interface

A wearable app should both function smoothly without draining a battery and look attractive on wearable devices. The biggest challenge here is that normally, wearable devices have much smaller screens than smartphones. Therefore, the user interface of a wearable app must be designed with a set of basic rules in mind:

  • Remove visual clutter in the UI
  • The UX/UI has to convey messages properly, so make a UI clear and minimalistic
  • The displayed content must be relevant to the user context
  • The content should be displayed against a light enough background
  • Design singular focused tasks that create an efficient flow
  • Make notifications unobtrusive and valuable for a user
  • User sessions on wearables are short, so interactions must be as lightweight as possible

Privacy and Security

Any app provider – regardless of the vertical or the level of sophistication – must always opt for more privacy and security for its users.

First of all, wearables are designed to be continuously connected to the internet and support data transfer from one device to the other. It is beneficial for the user experience but is also associated with the increased risk of data breaches. That said, it is the app provider’s responsibility to eliminate the risk and prevent data robbery by third parties.

On top of that, wearable devices’ displays can easily become the source of the data leak, too. A good practice is to make content on a wearable device’s screen user friendly. As a result, if designed poorly, users’ sensitive health data or private conversations can be visible on a wearable device when it is in plain sight. However, there are ways to overcome this problem by efficiently designing wearable UIs.

Thus, one has to consider which way the wearable is facing and, based on that, decide how information should be displayed. As a rule of thumb, the screen should remain blank when it is not safe to do otherwise, and whenever a notification arrives, the device must vibrate first and only then display this notification. One way or the other, respect your customers and always aim to help them protect their data!

Functionality

An attractive, minimalistic, and easy-to-navigate interface is an integral part of what a great wearable device should be like. Yet, one should never sacrifice functionality for aesthetic reasons.

In fact, the more useful functionality a wearable device offers, the better. To attract and retain users, wearables should prove that they are here for a reason and that they can actually achieve what would not otherwise be possible. A wearable app must enable features that would add brand-new benefits.

For instance, a sleep-tracking wearable app should not just tell how long you slept or how often you moved at night, but instead, it should suggest advice on improving the quality of sleep based on your sleeping habits. A wearable app’s functionality must rely on personalization and customization not achievable on other devices to be justified.

Regular Updates

There could hardly be a moment for an app when all its users will get completely satisfied with how it looks and works. In fact, it is much more likely that most of them will never be absolutely happy with the services of an app.

That said, any application – and a wearable app is no exception – need to be regularly updated. Only with continuous upgrades, the app will be able to remain relevant and useful. Regular updates help address quality-related issues, and new releases are the only way to deliver new features and fix bugs.

Multi-platform Support

It is natural that with wearables, boundaries between devices have begun blurring. Ideally, wearable apps should be compatible with multiple platforms. Yet, this device fragmentation, in turn, started to hinder multi-platform app development.

Therefore, in reality, it is rarely possible to make a wearable app that would run seamlessly on different devices. Wearables are often tied to proprietary platforms, and third-party app development is very limited, if not impossible. For instance, some vendors manufacture devices so that their OS would not be modifiable. Thus, to run on multiple platforms, a wearable app must rely on a genuinely vendor-independent platform.

Nevertheless, many wearables are usually paired with a smartphone. They rely on the respective smartphone companion app to benefit from internet connectivity and for better performance. It further complicates the situation as cross-platform development approaches must support each combination of host and watch platform. This leads us to the next and last challenge that wearable app developers can encounter.

Tethered Devices

Interaction with other devices is essential for wearables. Their limited functionality and generally much smaller screens are some of the reasons why wearables are tethered – connected – rather than standalone devices. Wearables rely on larger devices when trying to live up to the performance standard. This tethering unlocks access to more features, but there is also a reverse side to it.

  • If the battery of that larger device – a smartphone, tablet, etc. – has run down, the wearable itself becomes useless.
  • If the device that a wearable is connected to is beyond the Bluetooth connection range, operations get much less smooth or stop altogether.
  • An app that is managed by two devices has twice as many reasons to fail.

Accordingly, developers should not think of wearables in isolation when designing apps for them. Until there is a rock-solid solution that would enable wearable devices to function flawlessly on their own, it is nearly compulsory to integrate them with the existing devices in a user’s digital ecosystem. Moreover, this must be done so that all the connected devices can benefit from each other, thus providing the user with the best possible outcomes.

For instance, a smartwatch that measures heart rate and blood oxygen and a smartphone that provides the in-depth analysis of the collected data are great examples of effective cooperation between a wearable and companion app.

Conclusion

Wearable app development is still in a nascent phase and has a long road ahead. This technology is already a trendsetter and further advancements are expected in the near future. If you have a wearable app idea or want and want to see it turn into reality, reach out to us at AppleTech.

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