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Next wave of wearable devices
2015-06-15
By Zhu Shenshen

Consumer technology companies are working hard on the next generation of wearable devices, giving them more features while trying to make them easier to use.

Jawbone continues to improve its wristbands while Dentsu Aegis is working on headbands that detect human feelings. Lenovo feels there is a future market for its “smart” shoes and Apple Watch can now be used to control thermostats and record the speed of your golf swing.

Wearable computing devices, like other tech products, have become smarter with each generation. They now feature more powerful sensors and functions, better integration with social media and a wide range of applications, even in the business sector.

Chinese consumers lead the world in demand for new devices, according to Accenture’s recent survey, Connected Digital Consumers China.

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Of Chinese consumers surveyed, 67 percent said they plan to buy wearable fitness monitors within the next five years. The global average was 40 percent. Also, 73 percent of Chinese respondents said they will buy a smartwatch, compared with the 41 percent global average, and 65 percent have their eyes on other wearable health gadgets, higher than the 39 percent average, according to Accenture.

Jawbone, one of the market leaders, plans to use its new products to help people better understand their bodies and use the information to become healthier.

The company just launched the Up2 wristband in China, which features a thinner and lighter design and a core operating system called Smart Coach. It can record the distance you walk or run, the speed, calories burned and more. Such information can help users achieve their fitness goals, the company said. Up2 also records your sleeping habits and lets you know whether you are getting enough deep sleep each night.

Another useful feature is Up2’s calorie counter. Jawbone has added a database that includes Chinese food so that users can monitor their food intake and make dietary adjustments when needed. The function is integrated with Smart Coach.

Jawbone plans to launch Up3 in China this summer. It will include multiple heart sensors to monitor your heart rate during exercise and rest. It will provide more accurate and professional suggestions to help users keep fit, the company said.

With Apple’s Watch OS2 update announced on Tuesday, the company’s watches will now connect directly with home appliances and Wi-Fi. In the past they could only connect through an iPhone.

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Social media is considered a catalyst in boosting the popularity of such devices. The WeChat “How many steps did you walk today?” list has drawn loads of users and “likes.”

Computer maker Lenovo was showcasing concept products like “smart” shoes that record the running speed and distance traveled by wearers. It said the shoes are more accurate than wristbands and envisions them being used by professional athletes.

Business uses

Companies are now discovering ways wearable devices can be used in business with future implications in the advertising, marketing and logistics industries.

Dentsu Aegis Network China, an advertising and branding firm, showcased its latest concept products used for digital marketing and collecting consumer data during CES Asia 2015, which was held recently in Shanghai. The products included Emotion Analyzer, a headband detecting emotions by brain waves, and Galar Virtual Reality, a headset display system for interactive games and stage design.

The Emotion Analyzer is an evaluation kit that allows real-time analysis of “emotions” such as interest, like, stress, concentration and drowsiness.

Dentsu sees the product as being used by shops to gather more data about shoppers and their in-store experiences. The company said stores could offer an incentive like coupons or discounts to encourage shoppers to wear the headset while in the store. The headset would send all the data on shoppers’ emotions to a computer, which then analyzes whether they are having good or bad experiences. The store would then theoretically be able to use the data to improve the overall shopping experience.

SAP AG showcased glasses with cameras that can scan bar codes on boxes. The company said they will soon be used by logistics and e-commerce firms as the glasses will boost productivity since workers will have their hands free while sorting packages and other duties.

Industry insiders said the main challenge in the wearable devices market is ease of use.

According to Accenture’s survey, 28 percent of Chinese respondents said the devices are “too complicated to use” while the global average was 21 percent. The survey also found that 31 percent of Chinese said the “setup did not proceed properly,” higher than the global average of 19 percent.

Chinese firms should avoid “over designing” and try to make devices that are “easy to use,” said Dave Sovie, managing director, Accenture High-Tech & Electronic Industry for Asia-Pacific.

Justin Butler, vice president of communications development of Misfit, the developer of Shine, another wearable fitness monitor, said “simple” and “beautiful” are always challenges when designing products.

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