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Where Next for Wearables?

After years of product development and experimentation, wearable tech has started to gather pace, building an ecosystem of connected devices that is capturing the hearts and wallets of consumers. According to Futuresource Consulting, this rapid acceleration of device uptake will result in a global market value of $108 billion by 2023. That figure will represent almost one in every ten dollars of CE spend and will be fuelled by a mix of health, communication, VR/AR, audio and gaming. What’s more, wearable technology will be the second largest CE category by volume in 2023, surpassed only by smartphones.

Across all wearable categories, including hearables, connected watches, fitness devices, wrist-worn smartwatches and head-mounted displays, Futuresource expects 39% growth in demand in 2019, once all figures are finalised. While 2019 saw a broad array of products at various stages in their lifecycles, the future landscape will reveal continuing innovation, a wider range of premium features and functionality, and heightened interest from consumers.

In a few short years, wearables have developed from basic step counting and heartrate measuring tools into highly complex devices, with a range of metrics that can monitor health and aid training in a variety of sporting activities. The health-centric approach also places an emphasis on sleep, general energy levels and stress. Futuresource estimates that, in 2019, 25% of smartwatches were shipped with sleep tracking as standard, driven primarily by Samsung and Fitbit.

Wearables are ideally positioned to utilise all aspects of health tracking. As devices that are designed to always be on the body, they can capture data passively, maximising data logging and providing granular insights as a result. From a consumer perspective, these insights will expand on the health and fitness coaching already present in certain devices, becoming increasingly bespoke as the device and its software learns its user’s habits. Women’s health tracking is also becoming a prominent feature of devices, leveraging the data captured by the device and input by the wearer to establish sporting and health trends related to the menstrual cycle.

Wrist-worn devices are increasingly including heart rate variability or VO2 Max monitors, features which bring to life sporting performance and recovery, adding an additional element of professional training to consumer wearables. There is also an emerging trend towards more comprehensive daily health tracking, with vendors keen to differentiate their products through an expansive feature set. Garmin, for example, tracks the user’s ‘body battery’ to provide guidance on maximising training and improving general wellbeing using an increasingly holistic approach. Historically, these premium features have trickled through to smartwatches, and Futuresource expects similar innovations and initiatives to enter this category across 2020 and beyond.

Focusing on providing elderly, infirm and vulnerable members of society a greater degree of autonomy, the emerging independent living wearables vertical has health tracking at its core. With specialist companies such as UnaliWear, Navigil and Best Buy’s GreatCall focusing on this market segment, these watches are part of a broader movement towards eHealth services.

While health and fitness functionality in wearables has been a key driver of growth, vendors are increasingly adding non-health related features into devices. Watch out for functionality like NFC payment, voice assistants, and the ability to make and take calls from the wrist as they begin to move mainstream. In addition, vendors and third parties are starting to leverage the wealth of collected data, improving service offerings, but also opening data to the scientific and medical communities for research purposes.

About the author

James Manning Smith

About Us

Here at Futuresource Consulting we deliver specialist research and consulting services, providing market forecasts and intelligence reports. Since the 1980s we have supported a range of industry sectors, which has grown to include: CE, Broadcast, Entertainment Content, EdTech and many more.