Businesses are missing a trick when it comes to wearable’s data

If you’re one of the millions of people who received a fitness tracker or smartwatch for Christmas, can you honestly say – hand on heart – that you’re still using it?

If it’s now languishing amongst the clutter of your kitchen drawer with only a few old batteries, keys and spare light bulbs for company, rather than strapped to your wrist tracking your every waking (and sleeping) moment, you’re not alone.

The abandonment rate of smartwatches is 29%, and 30% for fitness trackers, because people do not find them useful, they get bored of them or they break, according to a survey by Gartner, Inc.1: a surprising rate of abandonment for what was billed as ‘the next big thing’.

“Dropout from device usage is a serious problem for the industry,” says Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner. “The abandonment rate is quite high relative to the usage rate”.

>See also: The future of wearables

The USP for wearables is currently more about practicality than functionality: reading emails and messages with a brief glance to your wrist should be a powerful, time-saving proposition.

Global technology company Pitney Bowes studied over 1000 consumers in the UK, France and Germany to look at the maturity of different markets and identify who was using wearables, and for what purpose.

The results found Germany to be further along the adoption cycle than France and the UK, with 27% of survey respondents using them in the region, as opposed to 22% in France and 20% in the UK.

Owners across the three countries spent an average of 14 hours a week using the technologies, saying they used them as frequently as desktops and laptops.

When it comes to how they’re being used, the results started to get really interesting. Wearables owners are using them to track their steps and monitor their movement. But they’re using them for plenty of other activities too, and even this tends to vary per country.

In the UK, 30% of respondents in the study said they were using them to share their geolocation. Users in France and Germany were also keen on sharing their whereabouts with their wearables, with figures standing at 27% and 20% respectively.

Users also said they were sending SMS messages from their wearable device. Again, owners in the UK preferred this at 26%, with 24% in France and 20% in Germany agreeing.

Wearables are also being used to surf the internet, with 22% of users in the UK, 26% in France and 20% in Germany doing this. Around 20%, consistent across all three countries, were using wearables for mobile messaging, too.

>See also: Making use of emotional, biometric and wearable data

Compare these figures to smartphone usage, though, and the problem becomes clear. “To offer a compelling enough value proposition,” said Gartner’s Angela McIntyre, “the uses for wearable devices need to be distinct from what smartphones typically provide”.

With smartphone penetration averaging 89% in the UK, France and Germany according to the Pitney Bowes research, the question remains: what can a wearable offer that a smartphone can’t?

After all, if one or two apps on your smartphone track everything from your running distance to your hydration, why would you want to carry another device with you?

To find the answer, we need to look at data – let’s take fitness data as an example. Think about the amount of this type of data you generate through your wearable device: how you exercise, who with, at what time, in what location, at what intensity, with what results, towards what goal.

If companies used just a snapshot of this data more wisely but securely, they could transform the market for wearables by extracting hugely meaningful insights, extending revenue streams and adding real value.

The data could be commercialised and monetised. Crucially for the consumer, the data could be used to shift the user experience to a hyper personalised, highly relevant model.

>See also: Mobility predictions for 2017

The data generated by the user is only the start: once you layer in context, with enriched insights about relationships and location, you begin to uncover new revenue opportunities. Fitness information could be enriched with other context such as:

  • Whether users prefer to exercise inside or out.
  • What weather they prefer to exercise in.
  • What clothing best suits them for this activity.
  • Who else lives near them with similar exercise habits.
  • What nutrition they need for best performance.
  • How often those groups update their devices and why they do so.
  • What physical advertisements they walk / run / cycle past.
  • What in-app purchase they’re most likely to respond to.

At this point, data transforms into intelligence, and the wearable becomes a powerful platform. This starts to facilitate an unrivalled user experience: your device becomes more powerful, more collaborative, and more about you.

Dietary information, food preferences and nutritional data is pulled together to generate a profile, with personalised recipes and online grocery shopping orders to create those recipes.

Motivational messages can be pushed out at times when the individual is most likely to need them, with location-based alerts to local groups: running groups meeting nearby, for example, when a user is coming to the end of a training programme and may need more motivation.

Notifications of activity wear sales based on the user’s preferred sports could be pushed to the device. Before long, abandon rates reduce, and adoption rises as the wearable transforms into a virtual personal trainer and lifestyle guru. It becomes – as the smartphone has – an extension of self. And for businesses, a conduit to exciting new revenue streams.

Gartner, Inc calls this monetising of data ‘infonomics’ when asked why CDOs need to monetise their information assets. The global analyst firm states, “Monetising information is part of a growing demand for infonomics, or giving economic significance to information.

>See also: Steady growth in smartwatch market forecast – CCS Insight

In fact, Pitney Bowes estimates that 80% of successful CDOs will have value creation or revenue generation as their number 1 priority through 2021, up from less than 50% in 2016. Infonomics provides the framework businesses need to monetise, manage, and measure information as a real asset, thereby improving its benefits to the organisation”.

When it comes to extracting deeper value from wearables’ data, the question is whether users are ready for this. In fact, they’re more ready than you may think. Pitney Bowes’ research found that almost 60% of the consumers they spoke to in the UK, France and Germany actually expect brands to communicate with them in the next five years using data from their wearable device.

Businesses need to act quickly to make the most of this goldmine of information – otherwise they, like old wearable devices, may be relegated – figuratively speaking – to the kitchen drawer.


Sourced by Andy Berry, vice president software solutions EMEA, Pitney Bowes

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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