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Wearables awareness surpasses 50pc among US consumers: NPD

As more companies take a stab at wearable technology, consumers are starting to become more aware of this futuristic gear, according to a recent report from NPD Group.

According to NPD?s ?Wearable Technology Study,? 52 percent of consumers have heard of wearable technology devices such as smart glasses, smart watches and wearable fitness tracking devices. Among those aware, one in three say that they are likely to purchase one of these devices.

?I think it?s because we?re starting to see some of these products be advertised a bit more, like Samsung fairly out front advertising the Galaxy Gear, lots of people have heard of the Nike FuelBand,? said Ben Arnold, executive director and industry analyst at The NPD Group, Port Washington, New York.

?The nature of wearables is you wear them on your wrist or your body so they?re more likely to be noticed than maybe a smartphone, which stays in someone?s pocket,? he said. ?A product like Google Glass is so out of left field and not what we?re used to, so it?s getting buzz.

?You?re seeing devices, there?s a lot of resources being put behind advertising them, and frankly some of them are plain buzzworthy.?

Raising awareness
When it comes to new technology, there is always a need to educate consumers on the products and their use cases. Wearable devices are no different.

There is still definitely a hesitancy to accept many of the wearable devicess. Some consumers do not think that the devices are fashionable or aesthetically pleasing.

Others point to security and safety concerns. For instance, a few states have already begun talking about banning wearing Google Glass while driving for safety issues (see story).

Some casinos and other merchants have also begun banning Google Glass, fearing that consumers can record video while wearing the glasses.

In reality, however, these bans could actually be helping to raise awareness for the devices. The otherness and newness of wearable technology is generating a lot of buzz and conversation, and as the saying goes, no news is bad news.

According to NPD, wearable fitness devices such as Fitbit and Jawbone UP have attracted the most awareness among consumers.

The report found that one in three consumers said they had heard of wearable fitness trackers, and among those consumers 28 percent said they were likely to buy a device. Among likely buyers, counting calories were of interest to 50 percent of consumers and tracking the number of steps taken in a day were of interest of 32 percent of consumers.

Interestingly, women outnumbered men among prospective buyers at 58 percent.

According to The NPD Group's Retail Tracking Service, the digital fitness category has grown to over $330 million, signifying how large the market has become.

After fitness devices, smart watches came next in terms of awareness in NPD's study.

Thirty-six percent of consumers were aware of smart watches. However, only 23 percent said they were likely to buy one.

Among consumers who intended to purchase a smart watch, they were looking for the ability to make and receive phone calls, listen to music and track fitness.

Consumers who were aware of the device cited the following reasons for not wanting to purchase it: The bulk or size of the device, short battery life and an easily damaged screen. Consumers also expected to pay $298 on average for a smart watch.

Smart glasses came next with, 29 percent of consumers aware of the devices. Among those who are aware of the device, one in five expect to buy the device.

Consumers were interested in the following uses from smart glasses: Making and receiving calls, browsing the Web and taking photos and videos. Additionally, 50 percent of those aware of smart glasses said that the look and design of the device are extremely important to their decision to buy the device.

?What a greater awareness means for the technology is that we?ll see even more companies try their hand at influencing the market,? Mr. Arnold said. ?We?ll see some new products.

?If there?s a decent level of awareness, consumers are getting used to the use case,? he said. ?Greater awareness demonstrates to technology companies that it?s not a viable market just yet [but] on where consumers are interested and the messages are resonating.

?If you hang around CES this week, you?ll be led to believe it?s the next big thing. Right now at CES I?m sifting through all the hype to see who?s really going to be here next year selling products. I don?t think the category is totally going to die, I don?t think it?s the next big thing, I think its somewhere in between. I think we?ll figure out a use case for these products that?s not just additive.?

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York