Wearable Tech World Feature Article
February 21, 2013

Wearable Computing Devices Will Exceed 485 Million in Annual Shipments by 2018

If it wasn’t already clear to you, the wearable technology marketplace is nearing that magical tipping point where a market moves from hype and/or novelty to mainstream reality. Wearable technology may in fact have already crossed the tipping point as new research from ABI Research now suggests.

The report, titled “Wearable Computing Technologies,” provides forecasts for wearable cameras, smart clothing, smart glasses, healthcare, activity trackers, 3D motion sensors, and smartphone compatible watches. Regional device shipments and some extra segment splits are also included in the report.

Speaking of tipping points, Josh Flood, senior analyst at ABI Research puts it this way, “The furor about wearable technologies, particularly smart watches and smart glasses, is unsurprising. But both technologies are very stimulating and some of the applications for the device are rather inspiring.” In other words, the products that we are now beginning to see as we fully roll into 2013 are the sort that mainstream users are beginning to take notice of – and buy.

That is certainly one of the reasons there is a great deal of interest in what Apple will be doing here – assuming of course they actually make such a move. Flood continues, “Apple’s curved glass-based watch could prove to be a revelation in the wearable technologies market. The major question is whether the digital time piece will act as a complimentary device to the company’s iPhone smartphones or as a standalone product with other functionalities like health or activity tracking capabilities.” That is certainly true as far as we’re concerned.

ABI’s report forecasts that the wearable tech device market will grow to 485 million units in annual device shipments by 2018. That would represent rather astounding growth. In fact ABI suggests that wearable devices will begin to explode in popularity over the next two years. ABI suggests that with a wave of new gadgets set to hit the consumer market the ramp up over the next five years will likely lead to wearable tech becoming the norm for most people.

Currently, sports, activity and basic consumer health trackers account for the largest chunk of wearable technologies shipped today. These wearable devices are all widely available, and as ABI notes the fact that they tend to be both trendy and stylish in appearance makes them very popular with a broad range of customers.

ABI notes that an estimated 61 percent of the wearable technologies market will be directly traceable to sports and activity trackers in 2013. This isn’t a trend that is likely to change, although we will note that professional wearable tech – within healthcare, the enterprise and various other vertical markets – will likely become the dominant revenue producer as consumer wearable tech costs drop. Margins for wearable tech businesses will be much higher on the professional side though volume of shipped devices will remain much higher on the consumer side.

Also on tap in 2013, beginning with the Pebble Smartwatch that is now shipping, will play a very interesting role depending on how certain players – in particular Apple and Samsung – choose to play this year and what types of functionality they will look to deliver. Furthermore, we will see the arrival of much anticipated “smart glasses” later this year, with Google Glass likely to be a major driver in 2014 when they are scheduled to go into consumer production.

Smart watches offer extra usages for an item most people already own and commonly purchase. It may become universally expected for watches to include such functionality as a feature in the future. Furthermore, the capabilities of smart watches could – and probably will - lead to such devices being used as wearable remotes for home automation systems. A quick shake of your wrist to turn room lights off or on for example would certainly prove very convenient!

For more details on wearable technology, ABI’s Wearable Computing Technologies report and mobile computing, scope out ABI’s website.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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