Wearable Tech World Feature Article
September 30, 2014

Smart Wearable Device Shipments 'More than Quadruple' by 2017

Looking around the news, it's clear that wearable devices—ranging from the smartwatches and fitness trainers we all know to the smart glasses that are just starting to make an appearance—are a rapidly growing sector of the technology market. But it's one thing to say that it's rapidly growing, and another altogether to put a number on that growth. Juniper Research, however, recently put that number out there, noting that, by 2017, the total number of shipments for smart wearable devices was set to clear fully 116 million total units.

Juniper Research's new report—titled “Smart Wearables: Fitness, Glasses, Watches, Multimedia, Clothing, Jewelry, Healthcare and Enterprise 2014 – 2019”—offered up the number in question and plenty more besides. That number alone sounds impressive enough for just about anyone, but it only gets more so when it's compared against some of the others the report brought to bear. For instance, that 116 million total units projected to ship in 2017 is up from an estimated 27 million just this year, and that 116 million total units is about the same as seven percent of total smartphone shipments. Impressive by any means, but there's still plenty of room for growth; even with these numbers, it's still being suggested that fewer than five percent of all smartphones will be used with wearables. The total market, by 2019, is expected to reach over $53 billion.

The report also took a further look at the market itself, and discovered there was quite a bit on hand here. Several new devices were likely to emerge in the short term, and with said devices would require the means to better interact with all the data such devices were producing. Device makers, meanwhile, were taking up that particular gauntlet and getting ready to work with new operating systems and databank systems, ranging from things like Google's recent Android Wear to Samsung's Digital Health Initiative and beyond. With an increasing quantity of devices hitting the market, that in turn is going to reduce the ability for truly innovative devices to compete as software platforms will be the focus, according to the report.

But perhaps the biggest news the report had to offer didn't have so much to do with numbers as it had to do with device types. According to the Juniper Research report, fitness devices would actually fall in the market against smartwatches, as smartwatches started to not only incorporate fitness tracking capabilities but also offer other capabilities, resulting in smartwatches taking over the top slot in terms of sales and usage against fitness wearables in 2017. It's worth noting, however, that fitness trackers will likewise see this change coming and change accordingly, adding more smartwatch-style features.

The wearable device market is still a comparatively young market, so expecting change is likely to prove a development worth expecting. It's interesting to see how the whole market is likely to move toward devices with more features, and it will likewise be interesting to see what kind of impact that has on overall pricing. After all, we've seen fitness trackers come in at the lower end of the scale; will the prices come down for smartwatches, or will all wearables adjust upward to reflect new functionality?

Only time will tell what that future market looks like, but it's going to be quite an adjustment all the same. Wearable tech has plenty of room to grow and change, and the future should prove quite a strange place indeed.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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