The mobile device projections are in – and they’re big, REALLY big. This may just be bigger than the recent and trendy thoughts on the Internet of Things (which was observed by Forrester 11 years ago), and reminds one that it is tough to keep a good phrase down. So let’s look at three mobile device examples, in descending order of the date predictions they specify, and as described in news articles:
By 2017, 170 million wearable devices, says ABI Research. "Over the next five years, the total market for wearable wireless devices in sports and healthcare will grow to 169.5 million devices in 2017, up from 20.77 million in 2011, a CAGR of 41%. Strong growth will also take place within home monitoring applications for assisted living, remote patient care to help manage chronic conditions, and within hospitals and clinics."
By 2016, one billion smart phones, says Forrester Research. "One billion consumers will have smartphones, according to the research firm. In the US alone, consumers will own 257 million smartphones and 126 million tablets. By 2015, the total amount consumers and businesses spend on mobile devices, software and services related to the mobile ecosystem will be an astonishing $1.3 trillion — and mobile apps alone will account for $55 billion, according to Forrester. And it turns out that the 'app economy' has already created 500,000 jobs in the US, according to economist Michael Mandel.
By 2012, 13,000 consumer health iPhone apps, says Mobile Health News. The web research firm predicts that number will be up from 9,000 by the end of this year, describing these as "health, fitness and/or medical-related. Last February the average paid health app cost $2.77. As of July 2011 the average cost of a paid consumer health app was $3.21." In the top 10 -- not counting Health and Fitness Magazine and two formats of WebMD -- there are three apps for dieting, two for jogging, a symptom checker, a white noise generator, a sleep cycle alarm clock app, and the first of many apps to track fertility, pregnancy, and, er, let's just say, precursor process steps.
There is an organizing principle, but organization has yet to emerge. The above is a hierarchy, although Maslow would probably say we haven’t satisfied too many needs. At the bottom of this stack, we have the Internet of things talking to each other and transmitting a sea of data – like when a bus will arrive, whether a water main has broken, where a physical asset is located. (Hopefully someone is noticing on their smart phone). Up a layer, there are wearable devices for tracking aspects of our individual lives. Uo a layer from that, there is the ubiquitous smart phone, although still only penetrating 11% of the 65+ according to Pew. Given the available apps, that is probably for the best. Smart phones could potentially display some info from the wearable devices, though not necessarily. Up from that finally, are the consumer health smart phone apps, which seem, perhaps appropriately at this point, not terribly smart and extremely self-oriented.
So much money to be spent, so little value for older adults. Skepticism on. If you believe that within 5 years there will be significant spending on wearable home monitoring applications for assisted living, you are what some might call a tech optimist. That industry is barely moving access to the Internet out of the common areas, and with an average resident age of 86, seems unlikely to hurry towards wearable monitoring – unless, of course, ABI was counting PERS and elopement-prevention tech, both of which have been around for more than a decade. If you believe that smart phone ownership among the older adult population will grow enough in the near term to invite many senior-focused app developers at $3.21 per app download, well then, you are a visionary. Or just having visions.