The health crisis that arose from the COVID-19 pandemic has put many things into perspective for consumers and the tech industry alike. Digital health tracking is being viewed as a rising priority, driving premium hardware features and associated services. At Futuresource Consulting, we continue to closely review and monitor the impact of COVID-19, providing market reports and debriefs to best support our clients through this turbulent period.
Traditionally, wearables and in particular wrist worn devices have been at the forefront of digital health monitoring; fitness and activity tracking using biometric data has been an important feature in the wearables’ domain for several years. More recently, many vendors are expanding to introduce health-oriented features. Apple pivoted early in this area, successfully integrating an ECG monitor and fall detection algorithm in the Series 4 Watch back in 2018. The next wave of wearable products will see further health innovation, including blood pressure measurement and non-invasive blood glucose tracking. These (plus other) additional features are aiding in expanding the appeal of the category to a wider demographic.
Recent trends also reveal how the ear is proving suitable for measuring our health and wellbeing. As explored in our Hearables Market Report, Digital hearing health is a comparatively new field but a rapidly rising theme in the ear-tech space. Whilst the hearing aids business for severe hearing loss is driven by medically prescribed devices, there is now higher awareness about the need to address issues related with mild to moderate hearing loss.
Futuresource’s recent Audio Tech Lifestyle consumer survey has shown that consumers find it appealing to have conversation enhancement features in future earphones. With the industry on the threshold of OTC hearing aid regulations, new opportunities have arisen for hearing aids and lifestyle headphones brands to enter this domain. OTC regulations will allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter and at cheaper price points.
This will open competition in a field tied closely with audiologists’ prescriptions. The stars aligning in this segment has led to a flurry of activity; Apple made a foray into this space with the introduction of the Live Listen feature in its headphones and conversation boost function in the Airpods Pro. Sonova recently acquired Sennheiser with a view to leverage its capabilities in the hearing aids business and the reputation of Sennheiser’s audio quality to bring new products in the market. Furthermore, Bose recently launched hearing aids at $850, whilst GN Resound launched a new hearing aid under the Jabra brand.
Building the ecosystem to seamlessly control and manage these devices and their multi-faceted services is the realm of the tech heavy hitters, with several vendors seeking to stake a claim. Currently however it is Apple leading the way, owning 43% of the wearables (smartwatches and activity trackers) and TWS devices space combined. Xiaomi are also present in the wearables space with fitness and sport watches, although their focus is on product push as opposed to ecosystem experiences. Google and Samsung are strong players in the mobile landscape but have not yet exploited the ecosystem associated with the diverse Android smartphone userbase.
Digital Health is also starting to shift into the home, where Amazon and Google currently take the lion’s share of the ecosystem. By the end of 2020, more than 200m devices with Alexa and Google Assistant devices (in smart speakers, soundbars and DMAs) were deployed in homes. The opportunities this offers to expand into various services associated with the wellbeing of the home is tremendous. The latest speculation is that Amazon’s Echo will likely feature radar sensors to track sleep in the home, matching up with Google’s Nest Hub which has already integrated this technology. Moving forward, sleep tracking can be linked with wellness services including meditation apps, mood lighting and other advisory services. This is only one such example amongst a myriad of other possibilities to monetise the services associated with healthcare and wellness.
The big question to address in the home is this: who will control the ecosystem across entertainment, productivity, and wellbeing? Beyond Amazon and Google, telcos and set-top box providers have a notable existing footprint in homes with existing services to boot, opening possibilities for service extension, either alone or perhaps with vertical specialists such as healthcare, security and utilities.
With digital health tracking, the data generated is largely for guideline purposes only; at this point, brands are only passively capturing and representing this data. The next big step will be for vendors to use this data to boost engagement actively and intelligently with consumers by providing value added services. It will be interesting to see how companies collaborate to provide targeted health related applications to consumers by monetising and building viable business models around the services.
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Futuresource Consulting is a market research and consulting company, providing its clients with expertise in Professional AV, Consumer Electronics, Education Technology, Content & Entertainment, Professional Broadcast and Automotive. Combining strong methodologies and unsurpassed data refinement with in-depth market knowledge and forecasting, Futuresource deliver the latest insights and technological developments to drive business decision-making.
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