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Wearable tech’s future: Beyond fitness trackers to $160bn in 10 years

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The wearable tech market will be worth $160bn in 10 years

Have you noticed how the hype around wearable technology has died down lately? A couple of years ago you couldn’t move for some expert predicting that we’d all be talking into our jackets and lighting up the room with our jeans.

So has wearable tech gone from being the Next Big Thing to Yesterday’s Thing? Not at all, in fact a new report shows how its NBT status has evolved to make it a much more nuanced market and one that’s set to grow fast.

The wearable tech market is currently worth around $30bn but will hit $160bn in the next 10 years, the report from IDTechEx says. On the way, it’ll be worth $40bn in the next two years and $100bn by 2023.

Not that it’s going to achieve all that just on the back of the fitness trackers and smartwatches that currently dominate the market. After all, the former category has proved popular but prices are relatively low, while the latter hasn’t exactly grabbed mass consumer imagination just yet.

What’s needed is for wearables to expand into other areas of our lives and IDTechEx says it will do just that. It believes there will be almost 40 product sub-categories in the next 10 years, including fitness trackers, smartwatches, connected clothing, smart eyewear (particularly important because of augmented reality and virtual reality), medical devices, smart patches, headphones, and hearing devices.

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At the moment, just about every wearable tech device relies on a smartphone to act as the hub, and it will continue to do so for some time. But IDTechEx also says that “all of the largest manufacturers now look to a future, where the hub itself may become wearable”.

We’re already seeing some signs of this with devices like Samsung’s Gear S2 not relying on a smartphone to make calls and Google’s upcoming Android Wear 2.0 having more independent functionality too.

Report author James Hayward said: “Fuelled by a frenzy of hype, funding and global interest, wearable technology was catapulted to the top of the agenda for companies spanning the entire value chain and world.

“This investment manifested in hundreds of new products and extensive tailored R&D investigating relevant technology areas. However, the fickle nature of hype is beginning to show, and many companies are now progressing beyond discussing wearables to focus on the detailed and varied sub-sectors.”

So what does all that mean for the future? Well based on those sub-categories that IDTechEx lists, we still won’t be talking into our jackets or lighting up room with our jeans in the next decade. But it does seem than wearable tech will work its way into our lives in many different areas.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

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Smart watches to lead wearables growth in 2015 and beyond

This post first appeared on WGSN.com/blogs

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Unit sales of smart watches are expected to grow 358% year-on-year in 2015, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

The introduction of the Apple Watch as well as continuing uptake of other similar wrist-worn devices from the likes of Samsung and LG, will result in a total of 10.8m sales across the US.

The category – one of a number of wearable technologies being tracked by the CEA alongside fitness trackers and smart eyewear – will also see 470% growth in revenues year on year, to a total of $3.1bn. Combined, the industry is expected to hit $5.1bn in 2015 and up to $7.6bn in 2018.

“Once you put a big name like Apple or Samsung into the mix, [everyday consumers] start to take notice and start talking about them over coffee,” said Jack Cutts, director of business intelligence at the CEA, referring to the mass awareness of wearables ahead.

Speaking at technology trade event CES, he suggested these devices – smart watches especially – will be mainstream by 2018, but he urged the industry not to set expectations around the kind of penetration experienced by smartphones. Success doesn’t have to come in the form of ubiquity, he explained.

Those who do win will incorporate both ‘premium’ and ‘fun’ designs over the next few years, he outlined, with price points sitting at $500 to as low as just $30 in 2020.

He also suggested that such devices would become increasingly useful. Beyond just the communications or fitness/health tools they are today, they will also incorporate things like authentication, a central hub alongside the phone for everything to do with the ‘Internet of Things’, and more.

“Does my dad need one yet?” asked Cutts. “No, not really, it’s still a very techy device, but we’re on the cusp of that changing.”