Wearable devices are a relatively new phenomenon: a few years ago, the only tech that people could wear on their person was a watch on their wrist. Today, there’s a diverse roster of ever-more complex wearable devices that fulfil a variety of functions, including fitness trackers, smartwatches, smartglasses and more. 

One emerging category is wearable medical devices, and the market for these looks likely to grow substantially in the ASEAN region over the next few years. Indeed, there is already a growing number of healthtech startups in Southeast Asia, and recently there has been significant research and development in the wearable health device market in APAC.

We explore the tech disruptions in the wellness industry in Southeast Asia and the impact.

Worn on the body, and capable of diagnosing and monitoring medical conditions, wearable devices can collate the users’ health information digitally with various types of data, including heart rate, blood pressure, weight, sleeping habits, and many more. 

Emerging trends

Mordor Intelligence released a report, in which the authors estimate that this market will register a 26.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) over the next five years. They cite several propelling factors driving the growth, including the rate of technological advancement and innovation, as well as the increasing wealth of individuals in the region.

anonymous sportswoman checking smart watch and sitting on mat
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The introduction of new wearable devices has already led to growth in the healthtech sector as smart lenses, wireless ECG devices, wireless heart-rate monitors, and blood glucose monitors are readily available. Further, the authors point out that the prevalence of these devices has made consumers much more tech-savvy, driving demand for high-tech wearable medical devices. 

The products are often expensive, but there is some variation in pricing strategies. Developing and emerging regions sometimes have low-cost versions of international products to improve market penetration, but some manufacturers use a uniform pricing strategy across all markets. Thus, the report argues that the high price of the products plays an essential role in the growth of the market. 

Changing lives and lifestyles with tech

Focussing on the Asia-Pacific region, the report highlights that rates of lifestyle-related disease are much higher in this region than elsewhere. This includes diseases such as diabetes and obesity and the resulting increased risk of cancer. Thus, there is a powerful incentive to develop affordable methods to diagnose conditions such as these early, when treatment is most effective. Chronic conditions like obesity, heart disease, breathing problems, and so on can benefit from round-the-clock monitoring and treatment. Wearable medical devices, therefore, are in high demand in the region.

Though the report emphasises that the market is fragmented, with high levels of competition, there are several major players in the market, several of which have become household names. Five of the most important companies in this field are Sotera Wireless, Fitbit Inc., Lifesense, BioTelemetry Inc., and of course, Apple Inc. 

What’s next for health and wellness tech

Wearable devices can be excellent tools for sports and fitness, and indeed this type of device is shown to have the largest share of the market. Health and wellness tracking through technology contributes to consumers’ growing familiarity with tech and wearable devices, and in turn, drives demand for wearable medical devices. 

crop faceless person showing smart watch while using smartphone outdoors
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Current estimations from a Statista report states that the wearables segment in Asia is worth $9.6 billion USD in 2020, but in contrast, it does not project growth for the industry. This report estimates an annual CAGR of -2% from 2020 to 2024, leaving a projected market volume of just $8.9 billion USD by 2024. It also forecasts that user penetration will fall, from 6.6% in 2020 to just 5.2% in 2024. Notably, it expects that the average revenue per user will reach $33.31 USD, and most of the revenue will be generated in China, accounting for nearly 63% of the region’s revenue in 2020. 

Deloitte weighs in on the same subject, with its report titled ‘Healthcare and Life Sciences Predictions 2020‘ along with a supplemental Southeast Asia-specific version. This report raises a crucial factor that could limit the growth of the healthtech market in the region. It notes that medical paternalism remains strong in Southeast Asia, with patients viewing the words and advice of doctors and pharmacists as unimpeachable, reducing their trust in devices that are not administered by professionals. 

Overall, the wearable health device market in APAC appears robust, but there are mixed feelings and contradictory predictions regarding the future of the industry. Multiple competing factors influence both the supply and demand of this technology in the region. The competition within the market is fierce, with many players in the game, and there is a growing number of healthtech startups in Southeast Asia receiving record levels of investment. Whether or not this is sustainable is unclear, but many interested parties will be monitoring this market closely.