How wearables fit into the african market

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From Smartwatches to Pedometers, Health monitors, Activity trackers, and even Virtual reality headsets, the world is still in awe of the offerings of wearable technology. With some of the devices equipped with instant notifications of emails, SMS, capacity to make and receive calls, and third party apps to keep the user connected, this trend is gradually turning out to be the new face of communication and fitness. It has various industries like fitness, mobile device, sportswear industry, Healthcare industry amongst other innovative solutions to meet the needs of their customers.

In 2012, Google unveiled Google Glass, an optical head-mounted display (OHMD). It was developed with the mission of producing a mass-market ubiquitous computer and displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format as wearers communicate with the Internet via natural language voice commands. In November 2012, it received recognition by Time Magazine as one of the “Best Inventions of the Year 2012.

On the 4th of September 2013, Samsung announced its smartwatch, Samsung Galaxy Gear at Samsung Unpacked Episode 2 in Berlin. It was introduced to the public especially along with Samsung’s another new product, Samsung Note Galaxy Note 3 and was available on September 25, 2013. The pebble smartwatch was also released and sold out in 85,000 units since raising $10.3m to make them on Kickstarter. 2013 also saw Apple planning to make an iWatch which was released in April 2015.

At the 2014 Mobile World Congress in Spain, wearable technology took center stage as companies like Sony, introduced their SmartBand, which boasts of detailed life-logging capabilities, Samsung unveiled two smart timepieces, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo, and its own fitness band called the Gear Fit, Huawei with its TalkBand B1 which contained a wireless Bluetooth earpiece for conducting hands-free calls amongst others.

The year 2014 also saw the launch of Android Wear from Google, Polo Tech smart shirt from Ralph Lauren which debuted at the 2014 U.S. Open. In April 2015, Apple also released its Apple watch which beams messages, Facebook updates and simplified apps eliminating the all-too-common need to constantly take out one’s devices to check notifications.

But the major question on the lips of investors is how ready is the African market for wearable technology? It is noteworthy to state that the African technology market grows because as a people, a lot of attention is given to new innovation and this creates a market whenever it shows up. It can be argued that not all African countries will have a market place for it but countries like Nigerian, Kenya and South Africa, to mention a few, will. March 2014 saw CladLight, a Kenyan start-up launch Africa’s first wearable technology in the form of a jacket to be worn by motorcycle riders. This was created in a bid to reduce road accidents involving motorcyclists.

In Africa, More people are becoming conscious of their health and fitness because they are gradually understanding the benefits of being healthy. More gyms are springing up around neighborhoods, residential and office areas as there has been an increase in the “FitFam” membership. South Africa leads the continent in the fitness industry followed closely by Nairobi (Kenya) and Lagos (Nigeria). Typical Mornings in Lagos now features people walking around in sports outfits with pedometers strapped on their arms. People in gyms can also be spotted with one smart wristband or technology that sometimes can be connected to their phones. Samsung’s gear and Apple’s are the top players in Nigeria.

On a flipside, it is looked upon as an expensive add-on that can be done without and due to this factor, a high percentage of the early-adopters would be the wealthy ones. By nature, a majority of Nigerians are fashion conscious, tech-saavy people and the fact that these devices don’t match the luxurious look of their expensive wristwatch make them more of a show of acquisition than a replacement. It will be more of an add-on than a full-blown alternative.

The facilities needed for wearable tech in Africa are available but they can be improved upon. Nigerians are still dealing with the high cost of data, low broadband penetration, bad internet connection for their expensive smartphones. For wearable technology to be fully accepted, a lot of work has to be done by players within the local industry.

Wearable technology is proving to be more than a fad as it has the potential to increase remote social interaction in years to come.

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