Wearable health devices are a novelty that wear off

Few use them every day and many abandon them after a year

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A new PwC study shows most wearable owners stop wearing them after a year.

Credit: PwC

Once the novelty wears off, people abandon their health wearable devices, many of which require regular syncing, powering up and other steps needed to keep them running.

Only 10% of 1,000 U.S. consumers surveyed who own wearables wear their devices every day, 7% wear them a few times a week and 2% wear them a few times a month.

That was one of the key findings of a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey released this week. PwC also released a study on the future of wearables, indicating that wearable technology is the next big thing, even if it hasn't quite yet caught on.

"Businesses need to have a game plan in place to act on the competitive opportunity, while taking note of the challenges,"  PwC said. "The rise of wearable devices will create new means for marketing, including smarter, more robust customer data collection, and stronger insights into user interaction."

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Consumers are price sensitive when it comes to wearables, but when offered them for free by their company as an incentive to lower insurance costs, most said they'd quickly strap one on.

Another finding: Consumers do not want to share wearable-device-generated health information with friends and family; they do however, trust their physician with that kind of data. Forty-three percent of those surveyed said they're not comfortable sharing any information about themselves.

The survey report: "Health Wearables, Early Days," revealed consumers have privacy concerns related to the electronic devices.

Only one in four users said they want to share exercise information or health information with friends and family through outlets such as social media. Even fewer want share their weight (15%), sleep schedule (12%), medicine intake (12%) or diet  information (14%).

"If you are going to build a great solution, you have to meet the consumer where they are," Lee Shapiro, managing partner at venture capital firm 7wire Ventures, told PwC.

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Types of wearables people own.

Asked who they trust with their wearable data, consumers ranked their primary care doctor most highly (54%); hospitals, pharmacies and dentists also ranked highly.

On the other hand, if an employer were to provide an employee with a wearable for free, 68% of consumers say they would wear them -- streaming anonymous data to a pool in exchange for a break on their insurance premiums.

Even so, only 21% of the U.S. population owns a wearable. Most are not familiar with top consumer brands and the most popular mobile "medical device" among those  surveyed was a smartphone -- something that "isn't worn but instead resides close by in a pocket or purse" PwC said.

Even though few said they'd purchase a wearable, the market is expected to continue growing by leaps and bounds. By the end of this year, wearable companies will have shipped about 7.6 million units in the U.S., nearly twice as many as in 2013, according to PwC.

Consumers, do find value in health wearables. Most of those surveyed (56%) believed that the average life expectancy will grow by 10 years because wearables enable the monitoring of vital signs, such as heart rate and temperature.

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Why consumers use wearables

Forty-six percent of those surveyed said they believe wearable tech will reduce obesity by enabling the monitoring of nutrition and exercise. Another 42% believe the average person's athleticism will improve "dramatically" as wearables allow people to fine-tune exercise progress.

PwC's analysts agreed.

"As consumers begin introducing these devices into their daily lives over the next five to 10 years, they should begin to gain better control over their health and related healthcare costs, changes that will ripple into the $2.8 trillion U.S. healthcare system and help shape the New Health Economy," the said stated.

Though consumers aren't familiar with most health wearable products, half of those surveyed said they're "very" or "somewhat" likely to buy one in the next year. Consumers indicated less interest in buying smart watches (35%), smart (sensor-equipped) clothing (20%), smart glasses (19%) or people-tracking devices (13%).

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Privacy is a huge concern, with most consumers saying they are unwilling to share data collected by a wearable

Those who did buy wearable tech tended to be young males between 18 and 34. Meanwhile, the next wave of fitness band buyers were more likely to be older females, from 35 to 54 years old, PwC found.

Price remains a sticking point. Even if devices were priced at $100, only 38% of those surveyed said they'd be very or somewhat likely to purchase one. When the price hits $300, the numbers drop to just 5%.

This story, "Wearable health devices are a novelty that wear off" was originally published by Computerworld.

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