Wearable Technology Gains Momentum in 2013

Every year Mary Meeker releases a bit of Powerpoint gold detailing the latest trends in the digital world and every year brands and marketers eat it up trying to digest any insights that can get them ahead of the curve. This year is no different – Mary presented her “State of the Internet” at AllThingsD’s D11 conference last week and the web is still abuzz. This year’s slides covered a wide range of topics, from the proliferation of internet access in the developing world to the exponential growth in content sharing, but one topic commanded more attention than others – the integration of the internet into everyday things.

The Internet is coming to your clothes – or at least your clothing accessories

Ms. Meeker described the next phase of computing as “Wearables/Drivables/Flyables/Scannables” but wearables are arguably the most consumer-ready extension of the Internet of Things. With products such as the Pebble smartwatch and Nike Fuelband already out in the wild, are consumers ready for the more complex future of wearable technology?

Mentions of Wearable Technology on social media have exploded in 2013

Judging by the sheer number of Twitter and Facebook posts, the answer is a resounding “yes”. Monthly mentions of wearable technology reached an average of 4,200 posts per month in 2012 – this number has increased more than sevenfold in 2013 to nearly 32,000 posts per month. Google’s #IfIHadGlass Twitter competition and Mary Meeker’s report at the end of May contributed to large spikes in mentions – more than three times 2012′s peak month.

Wearable Technology Conversation - 84% Male, 16% Female

People talking about wearable tech are predominantly male

Although the volume of conversation shows a general level of interest in the topic, it doesn’t give enough insight into the future potential for consumer adoption. Unfortunately for wearables, the first peek at potential early adopters is not a good sign. Over the past year the ratio of males to females talking about wearable tech has been fairly stable – and it shows males leading the conversation not by a little but by a wide margin.

One of the biggest hurdles for wearable technology is avoiding the social acceptability pitfall that has plagued past attempts at wearable technology (see Bluetooth earpieces & beepers/cellphone belt clips for reference). When it comes to outward appearance, females are generally the taste makers –  females dress to what’s popular among other females and males dress to what will impress the ladies. Though this is not always the case, it will almost certainly play a part in how successful early attempts at wearable technology can be. Already, early owners of the Google Glass Explorer edition have been given the lovingly pejorative term “Glassholes”, though this stigma will likely apply more to Augmented Reality headsets than the less obtrusive smartwatches already in market.

WearableTechnology: Map of Mentions

Mentions per capita show New York, California, and Massachusetts to be hotspots

The second piece of demographics tied to wearables is much more favorable than the first. The conversation is happening in all the right places – New York, California, and Massachusetts are all hotspots for conversation about wearable technology. This is significant on both the technology and fashion fronts as New York and California are widely regarded as the fashion capitols of the East and West Coast (respectively) and all three are also known for being tech hubs with elite schools such as MIT, NYU, and Berkley (to name a few).

The early numbers behind the wearable technology movement show huge growth in consumer interest and start to give a few clues about how well the technology will be received by the general public. But more important than volume and demographics, even this early, is consumer opinion. Stay tuned as we follow the latest updates in the wearables conversation and dive deeper into the opinions and sentiment surrounding wearable technology.