For decades, the consumer electronics sector has been encasing ever-faster computer processing power inside ever-smaller physical footprints. This trend reached a milestone several years ago, when sensors and components were at last small enough to be housed within watches, wristbands and headsets, giving rise to the wearable technology sector.

Capitalising on the concurrent rise of big data and the internet of things, wearables have been enjoying a steady rate of adoption – mostly in the fitness band and smartwatch categories – with consumers flocking to features such as heart rate monitoring, sleep tracking and step-counting. With health and wellbeing closely tied to performance and economic output, several employers have also cottoned on to the benefits of a wearable-connected workforce, distributing the gadgets to staff to improve efficiency, productivity, and overall corporate wellness.     

While wearable tech has not been without its teething issues, particularly over matters of trust and security, its future growth prospects remain bright. As this infographic by Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies demonstrates, the wearables phenomenon is poised to overhaul yet another part of the economy: the healthcare industry.

Citing a range of sources including PwC’s Health wearables: Early days report, the infographic looks at the rise of wearable technology in the US. The university’s researchers predict over 400 million wearable units to be in the marketplace by 2020, with hospitals saving up to US$200 billion over the next 25 years.

Most interestingly, however, health insurers stand to profoundly benefit from wearable tech. For example, one US health insurer, Humana, introduced a policy that measured core data of its customers using wearables. It then ‘rewarded’ customers that frequently engaged in fitness-related activity. The results speak for themselves: a three-year study of Humana staff engaged in the program showed an 18% saving in healthcare costs as well as an impressive 44% decline in sick days.

More a slow-burning success rather than an overnight sensation, wearable technology continues to show significant promise for the future. If the current security and trust issues can be overcome, wearables stand to be instrumental in helping consumers live longer, better lives.

Other observations include:

  • 20% of Americans own a wearable device
  • Fitness bands are 16% more popular than smartwatches
  • 54% of fitness band adopters are female, while 71% of smartwatch owners are male
  • 56% of consumers believe a wearable increases average life expectancy by 10 years
  • 82% of consumers worry about an invasion of privacy, while 86% believe wearables compromise security


wearable tech and health insurance