Insights into the Canadian wearables industry

Recently, we have featured startups that are leading the way in the new wearables space. Today, we bring to you an interview with one of the people that is tracking the industry and taking great interest in the space. Krista Napier is the manager for mobility at IDC Canada. Napier presented at last month’s We Are Wearables event in Toronto, which we reported on earlier. We also had the opportunity to ask Napier some questions about the report and her thoughts on where the industry is and where we can expect to see it in the near future. 

Krista Napier, Manager for Mobility at IDC Canada.
Krista Napier, Manager for Mobility at IDC Canada.

Why was this report commissioned now? The industry still seems a little young.

Krista Napier: Yes, the industry is young … that’s why our clients want to know about it now. Our clients represent the big OEMs, telcos, and vendors in the tech market worldwide. They need to understand these trends and figure out how they will address them before the market gets too big and they miss their opportunity to make their mark.

(Napier also predicted that the industry would reach $600 million in the next five years.) 

What changes does the industry need to make to help facilitate this growth?

KN: Changes that will help the category grow include OEMs partnering up with fashion labels to design more attractive devices that will be desirable for the mass market, and not just tech geeks. Other factors include improving battery life on smart wearables, bringing the price points down and making them widely available at more than just electronic stores or telcos, and also making them “cool.” There is still a stigma associated with some of these devices and we need branding and marketing that will make the average Canadian really want them. 

What role have the various levels of government played to help nurture this industry? And what role should it take to help it grow and what ingredients are in place in the Canadian ecosystem that has allowed companies like Thalmic Labs and Bionym to grow?

KN: There are great resources in Toronto like MaRS that support startup companies and even events like We Are Wearables is fantastic as it gives them a forum to showcase their product and get exposure. 

You spoke about the three different types of products: complex, smart, wearables. Which one will experience the most growth and why?

KN: The three categories are complex accessories, smart accessories, and smart wearables. I expect smart accessories will see the greatest shipment growth over the next few years, since that is where we are seeing big brands moving to (LG, Motorola, Samsung, Sony and possibly Apple). These big brands will drive awareness and adoption in the category, and help to make the products cool. 

What needs to be in place for people to embrace wearables like they have now embraced mobile phones and tablets?

KN: Two big things: The use case has to be obvious. And it has to be clear why you would use it instead of a device you already own (like tracking your steps or heart rate on your phone). That may seem obvious, but I think for many consumers, this is not the case, especially for smart accessories and smart wearables. The fitness bands are a little better…it’s more clear why you would use those.

Fashion has to improve on these. The majority of the devices in the market still come in one size [or] colour fits all, or they look large and bulky, rubbery, and techy. That’s fine for early adopters, but for the mass population, they need to look a lot nicer and elegant, and actually match the rest of your clothes and your style.

Karim Kanji
Karim Kanji
Karim Kanji is the Canadian Director of Social Media Strategy at iNvolved Media. iNvolved Media was purchased by Active International in 2015. Clients include popular food brands, technology brands and other CPG companies. Prior to joining iNvolved Media, Karim led the paid social media strategy for some of Canada's most popular CPG and confectionery brands for Catalyst/GroupM. Karim started in the social media space when he co-founded and was the President of THIRDOCEAN where he led the creation of digital content for companies including Scotiabank, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, Microsoft, Wild Water Kingdom, Palomino Systems Inc. and Techvibes. Karim has also been recognized as a pioneer in podcasting having interviewed people such as such as federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, former MLSE boss Richard Peddie, TVO's Steve Paikin, Canadian serial angel investor Dr. Boris Wertz, HootSuite founder Ryan Holmes, Mathew Ingram, Mitch Joel from Mirium and many, many others. As a demonstration of thought leadership, Karim led the development and execution of reports discussing how technology and digital media have impacted industries such as retail, education, health, gaming, sports and banking.

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