Those Dick Tracy two-way radio watches may have been a few decades ahead of their time, but the wake-up alarm on the idea of wearable connected technology is about to go off. About 14 million wearable devices were shipped in 2011, according to IMS research. Right now healthcare monitoring is the dominant use case – everything from heart rate to glucose measurements that can be transmitted back to medical care givers. But also in the game are fitness and activity brands tied to consumer marketing efforts, such as Adidas’s micoach and Nike’s Fuelband.
But as soon as 2016, the market in wearables worldwide will approach $6 billion. The fitness and wellness category of devices will experience huge growth and should make up 65% of the market in the next four years. And to be sure the medical category will continue to be the largest segment here. Continuous glucose monitoring will still be the most common form of connected mobile health monitoring.
But the killer category in terms of sheer growth potential is in infotainment, IMS argues. Smart watches will be a driving factor here. One of the best and highest profile examples of this is the upcoming Pebble “E-Paper Watch” that received over $10 million in Kickstart funding. The watch has downloadable faces, iOS and Android device connectivity and messaging.
But wait, there will be more. Smart glasses, sleep sensors and a range of military and industrial heads-up displays will also be in the mix as technological innovation starts focusing on integrating with the human body and becoming even less cumbersome than a cell phone. IMS calls its estimates “conservative.” If prototypes like Google Glass or a rumored Apple smart watch get market traction from familiar brands then the market could expand more quickly.