According to a new report from the research firm Berg Insight, shipments of connected wearables reached 19.0 million in 2014, up from 5.9 million devices in the previous year. Growing at a compound annual growth rate of 54.7 percent, total shipments of smartwatches, smart glasses, fitness & activity trackers, people monitoring & safety devices and medical devices as well as other wearable devices are forecasted to reach 168.2 million units in 2019. Bluetooth will remain the primary connectivity option in the coming years, but nonetheless, a total of 16.6 million of the wearables shipments in 2019 are forecasted to incorporate embedded cellular connectivity, mainly in the smartwatch and people monitoring & safety categories.
Fitness & activity trackers is the device category and shipments reached 13.0 million units in 2014. The market leading vendors Fitbit, Jawbone and Garmin have in the past year been joined by an abundance of companies including major players from the smartphone industry such as LG, Huawei, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony and Xiaomi which have released fitness & activity trackers. “This product category is now facing fierce competition from smartwatches that have activity tracking features. Decreasing prices and new form factors will still enable dedicated fitness & activity trackers to reach shipments of 42.0 million units in 2019”, said Johan Svanberg, Senior Analyst, Berg Insight.
A new breed of smartwatches became available in 2014 when high profile Android Wear smartwatches from Sony, LG, Motorola and Asus entered the market to compete with existing offerings from Pebble and Samsung. “Smartwatches are already the second category of connected wearables and sales will pick up considerably in 2015. The Apple Watch will enter the market and other major smartphone vendors will launch next generation Android Wear devices”, comments Mr. Svanberg. Traditional watch vendors will also enter the market in the coming years, both with smartwatches capable of running third party applications as well as traditionally styled watches with basic smartphone notification features. Improved devices available in different price segments will drive adoption in the next five years and smartwatches is predicted to become the largest device category by the end of the forecast period.
Shipments of smart glasses have so far been very modest, but promising use cases in specific markets such as enterprise and medical as well as in niche segments of the consumer market will enable smart glasses to become the third category of connected wearables in the next five years. “The opportunities are plentiful – improved imaging capability together with hands-free operation, real-time communication and augmented reality functionality would for example make smart glasses a serious contender on the action camera market”, said Mr. Svanberg. Connected wearables such as cardiac rhythm management devices, ECG monitors, mobile Personal Emergency Response Systems (mPERS) and wearable computers are already common in the medical, people monitoring and enterprise segments. Furthermore, miniaturised electronics, low power wireless connectivity and cloud services have inspired a wide range of new connected wearables such as authentication and gestures wristbands, notification rings, smart motorcycle helmets and smart gloves. “Most of these products are still experimental, but in a few years’ time there will be many examples of new successful devices on the market”, concluded Mr. Svanberg.