Data: How Will the Apple Watch Change Industries

The Apple Watch was unveiled last week and will be available in Apple’s largest markets in just over a month from today, and other markets will be added shortly thereafter.  This is Apple’s first major push into wearable technology (save the iPod shuffle a few years ago), and analysts expect it to take the lion’s share of the wearables market in the next few years.  The question is, how will this affect our daily live and the way we conduct business?

If wearables become ubiquitous, and it's DunRobin’s expectation that they will, the data shows big changes in the following industries: 1) Fitness and Diet, 2) Healthcare, and 3) Big Data, with smaller changes in 4)Communications, and 5) Fashion.

1)      Fitness and Diet:

The Fitness and Diet industries will experience a major innovation shift coupled with a customer volume increase if the Apple Watch becomes widely adopted. 

Wearables have so far focused on fitness.  There are many devices that focus on general fitness like the Fitbit, JawBone UP3 and the Microsoft Band, and there are many products that hit niche fitness markets like products from Garmin and Timex.  However, these products have generally been targeted towards the active and health conscious.  The data suggests, however, that the Apple Watch is highly desirable to both the active, but and relatively inactive portions of the population:

This suggest that there could be a major shift in our Fitness and Diet markets.  There will be opportunities here for detailed data analysis on how to improve and maintain overall fitness with the most effective activities.  Old fitness plans will be reviewed to determine which are the most effective, while new plans will be developed with measurable improvements to the old ways.  Additionally, independent data driven attestation apps will be developed to provide an unbiased view of which plans are the most effective. 

Finally, the increased fitness data will prove to be a catalyst in getting people to join gyms, purchase fitness equipment and adopt new diet and fitness plans.

2)      Healthcare:

The Healthcare industry stands to benefit if the Apple Watch becomes widely adopted.  Currently healthcare leverages data in almost all aspects of patient care.  Driven primarily by large insurance companies and other payers, patient outcome data is being leveraged to reduce the number and breadth of patient interactions through preventative medicine and other techniques.  However, to date, the industry does not have extensive daily activity data and so they cannot make data driven lifestyle recommendations or incentives for the population.  The data infrastructure is already available to most US based healthcare insurance companies and so changes could be implemented rapidly once the data is available. We have, however, identified a few challenges. 

First, accessing the data.  Our survey provided some surprising results regarding Apple Watch users’ preferences on data sharing.  When asked whether they would be willing to share their data anonymously with Health Insurance providers, respondents from all segments of “Purchase Likelihood” were unreceptive to the idea of sharing data anonymously with health insurance companies:

Second, respondents were more receptive to providing their personal health information to their doctor, but were still generally unreceptive:

Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, respondents were extremely willing to provide third party applications with their anonymous health data:

This suggests that there is a big opportunity for a startup to build a trustworthy reputation and then provide daily health statistics to healthcare professionals, who can then improve healthcare.  These startups would need to take a similar path to Mint.com, who has executed a similar model in financial services.  Regardless of the model, there is a shift coming.

3)      Big Data:

The changes coming to Healthcare and Fitness all surround data, and if the Apple Watch becomes widely adopted, there will need to be new solutions to store and analyze that data.

When we discuss "Big Data" we know that “big” is relative to amount of data that you’re used to.  In healthcare, the databases currently run through hundreds of millions of data points.  The US Government and some major tech companies can sift through usage data at an order of magnitude (or 2) above that.  But if millions of people all have numerous activity measurements recorded minute by minute, we will have a new definition of what the “Big” in big data means, and consequentially, we will require better data warehouses, data bases, and data analysis solutions to make it useful.

Current usage of the iPhone is estimated to be around 300 Million users.  If a quarter of the users purchase the Apple Watch, we will have 75 Million users recording hundreds of data points a minute .  As our data suggests that over 90% of users will share their anonymous data with third party apps, we should see a boom in Big Data.

4)      Communications

The most obvious change to the Apple Watch user is the instant notifications provided by the watch.  Users will immediately know about invitations, text messages, event updates, Twitter posts, emails, and a number of other services with a flick of the wrist.  Apple has already introduced new communication methods to take advantage of this speed to improve the intimacy and immediacy of conversations.  Our data suggests that these new communication methods excite the Apple Watch user base:

It will be interesting to see how Apple can improve upon these services and how start-ups will leverage this ability to connect and inform.

5)      Fashion

To a lesser extent, we estimate that the fashion industry will be affected by the Apple Watch, and indeed wearables in general.  90% of our survey respondents indicate that they believe that the Apple Watch is a fashion statement, and we expect to see fashion help define the look and feel of the products, and to help drive the technological advances required to improve wearable technologies. 

Conversely, it will be interesting to see how fashion will be shaped by the technology.  Over 80% of our respondents indicated that they currently own a watch and that they consider themselves watch collectors.  Of the collectors, 62.5% of respondents expect to purchase the Apple Watch.

It will be interesting to see how the fashion industry will react to competing with apple.

Appendix- About Our Data

Our survey was posted to the DunRobin Facebook account, the DunRobin Twitter account, the DunRobin LinkedIn account, and to Reddit.com.  We had over 180 respondents within the first 24 hours of posting the survey, and we used the first 175 responses in our study results.  Due to the demographics of the social networks that we posted to, we received an inordinate number of responses from young, tech savvy, undergraduate and graduate students, 86 of whom owned multiple apple products.

Interestingly, though we had a fairly Apple-friendly response, only half of the respondents indicated that they would purchase the Apple Watch.  Even more interesting is the shape of the responses.  The responses are not normalized at all, in fact it appears that the Apple Watch polarizes the respondents into definitely buy or definitely not buy, there is not much ambiguity in the opinions.