Technology has progressed so much that people are fitting the world’s most powerful computers into their pockets. Many of us feel as though we’re living in a science-fiction universe and that’s best demonstrated with wearable tech. But what is it? And why should anyone care? Let’s take a look and figure out who exactly is driving this sector.

What is wearable tech?

As the name indicates, wearable tech describes the range of tech devices that a person can place on their body. The most popular example is the smartwatch, popularized by Pebble, Apple, Samsung, and Motorola. Smart watches are essentially small computers shaped as a watch, able to handle operating systems and a range of apps. The Samsung Gear 3, says Wareable, “[has] features like built-in GPS for sports tracking and sending out SOS alerts, a speaker to make calls, Samsung Pay to, well, pay for stuff from your wrist, and a bigger battery.”

Of course, wearable tech doesn’t necessarily have to have these features. Fitbit trackers, for example, are cheaper, more streamlined devices designed for fitness enthusiasts. In their comparison between Fitbit and Apple Watch, PC Advisor notes: “The Fitbits offer much better battery life because their screens aren’t so pretty and they don’t have to sync with a phone to gain most of their functionality.”

Another well-known example of wearable tech is with glasses, though this has not taken off as much as companies like Google wanted. Google Glass, for example, was a highly anticipated product from the tech giant but quickly fizzled out for a variety of reasons. Primarily, there just was no market for the product as Forbes highlights: “One of the problems with Glass was it arrived with great fanfare, but most of us were not sure how we could use the product.”

As with all new technology, the problem is figuring out why out why anyone needs it. Though almost all new tech is dismissed as unnecessary (books, television, and computers have all been called unnecessary in their history), that shouldn’t mean businesses ignore what they mean.

For example, many are reconsidering customer analytics thanks to being able to track customers more closely, because of wearable tech attached to people’s bodies. As Electronics of Things notes: “Demographic, usage, and consumer expectation data is going to be pouring in from [wearable] devices; in return, this data is going to have to be analyzed to give the customer what he or she wants.”

Who is buying wearable tech?

As Engadget points out, there has been a surprising increase in wearable tech sales. One estimate says that wearable device shipments grew by 3.1 percent, in the third quarter of 2016. Fitness trackers are primarily responsible for this. Indeed, Fitbit, Garmin, and other fitness tracker companies saw shipments rise into double digits. But the sale of smartwatches declined.

The question then is: who buys wearable tech? As noted, fitness trackers are the most popular. They’re more affordable and offer more benefits for specific users. This makes it easier to conclude that fitness enthusiasts are the ones pushing the wearable tech industry. Furthermore, parents and those concerned with safety are beginning to take an interest.

Tinitell is a crowd-funded project focused on keeping kids safe. This is a water-resistant, child-sized watch combining the functionality of a cell phone and GPS locator.

Parents can protect their children without infringing on the child’s movement. Children also apparently enjoy the idea of owning their own new wearable tech. Though Tinitell has very limited application, at the moment, it highlights a specific kind of use and who benefits from wearable tech. Child safety is big business, after all.

But businesses must stay ahead. As we’ve pointed out, businesses as a whole benefit from knowing about the latest tech trends, especially in areas like cyber security. With all forms of tech progress, the world will also experience new forms of criminal activity or abuse of these systems. Nonetheless, keeping up with new tech, in general, is an important business strategy, since business leaders can’t predict where the future will lead.

Wearable tech also provides the opportunity for more data that can inform business decisions. In this way, too, businesses benefit from staying ahead of wearable tech trends.

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