From fitness bands to brain activity-sensing headbands, wearable technology was one hot topic at Mobile World Congress 2015 (MWC), held March 2-5 in Barcelona with 86,000 visitors.

The wearables market is forecasted to grow from 22 million devices in 2014 to 135 million by 2018, according to research firm CCS Insight. By some estimates, wearable adoption is increasing at five times the rate for mobile phones.

Industry players joined host Brent Blum, Wearable Technology Lead, Accenture, on stage at MWC for a panel discussion about the implications of these trends and demonstrations of the latest innovations in wearables.

Fitbit Makes Health Social

Fitness bands make up the fastest growing segment of the wearables market. But is this just a fad? Gareth Jones, VP & GM EMEA Sales, Fitbit, shed light on what’s driving this emerging market. Jones explained that manufacturers have only come to realize in recent years that the products must be easy to use and they must be able to integrate into the consumer’s life. “The minute it makes a difference in your life, that’s when you don’t leave home without it,” said Jones.

Fitbit used the occasion of MWC to put the spotlight on two of its latest products: the Fitbit Charge HR, used to measure heart rate, and Fitbit Surge, an advanced smartwatch that tracks training activities. The company reports having tremendous success with its campaigns, like Fitbit challenges and corporate wellness programs. Jones said that the social element and gamification of the challenges has given the brand its stickiness in the fitness band market segment.

Pebble Time Watch Puts Time in Context

Pebble attributes the success of its smartwatches to its persistence in staying focused on what consumers really want from a watch: time and context. Founder and CEO Eric Migicovsky took the stage to announce the release of Pebble Time Steel. Backed on Kickstarter for $250, the watch ships in April. Pebble has built in a new hardware accessory port on the back of its watches for added capabilities to suit varying needs of the user throughout the day.

Swarovski’s Shine – The First Solar-Charging Activity Tracking Device as Jewelry

Fashion jewelry house Swarovski has entered the wearables market, bringing to bear its unique insights into an underserved target group: women. As Joan Ng, SVP, Product Marketing for Asia Pacific, Swarovski, said in the session, for women “look is sometimes more important than functionality.” In Swarovski’s focus groups, women continuously highlighted the need for choice and versatility in the appearance of a fitness tracker for them to truly value the device. Ng summarized Swarovski’s design challenge as “How can we make a woman truly wear an activity tracker all day?”

In response, Swarovski partnered with Misfit to develop not just one product, but an entire collection based on an interchangeable energy crystal that can be easily switched from one jewelry setting to another depending on the occasion and what a woman is wearing. The product will be available in select markets at the beginning of April, with a solar chargeable version coming out by the end of the year.

Muse Headband – A Fitness Tracker for Your Brain

“A fitness tracker for your brain matter” is how Ariel Garten, Muse Founder and CEO, describes the Muse’s brain-sensing headband. Encompassing everything from managing stress and sleep loss to mindfulness and staying sharp in age, the brain health industry is a $6 billion business. The Muse headband, designed to be light and unobtrusive, fits gently across the forehead. It enables users to read the activity levels of their brain matter so that they can train their brains towards calmer and more productive habits. The product is available on Amazon in the U.S. and Canada, and will be coming soon to Europe.

SAP Teams Up with Swisscom for Predictive Maintenance in the Enterprise

Enterprise business software firm SAP has placed its bets on wearables taking off fastest in enterprise settings – where function matters most, especially for improved efficiency, safety, and compliance. Josh Waddell, Vice President Mobile Innovation Center, SAP, and Jürgen Winandi, Head of SAP Integration, swisscom took the audience through a predictive maintenance scenario on the SAP HANA Cloud Platform that gets a boost from wearable technology. For a service technician who needs to work on a critical part in an industrial setting, smart glasses enable the technician to access all relevant data about the part while keeping both hands free to perform the actual work.Wearables_MWCprevmaint

A showcase highlighting SAP’s real-time predictive maintenance scenario was on display at the SAP booth in Hall 6 at MWC. SAP showed the demo with a prototype of the Samsung Gear S smartwatch, pictured above.

If you weren’t able to attend this panel event, you can still follow the conversation and see pictures of these products on Twitter at #MWC15WEAR

Photo source: j. prause