Wearable technology mainly concerns devices and apparel/textiles. Glasses, jewellery, headgear, belts, armwear, wristwear, legwear, footwear, skin patches, exoskeletons and e-textiles are involved and the device business is already large. As the wearable electronics business powers from over $14 billion in 2014 to over $70 billion in 2024, the dominant sector will remain the healthcare sector which merges medical, fitness and wellness. It has the largest number of big names such as Apple, Accenture, Adidas, Fujitsu, Nike, Philips, Reebock, Samsung, SAP and Roche behind the most promising new developments.
By the end of the coming decade, advanced informatics as wearable electronics will match the healthcare market, with Google Glass and the best e-wristbands being among the most promising devices so far promising billion dollar sales potential. However, truly disruptive new technology, in the form of e-textiles, will also begin to establish major sales in a few years’ time and fashion, industrial, commercial and military applications will burgeon as a consequence. On the other hand, wearable infotainment will be increasingly commoditised by China, following its commoditisation of basic electronics wristwatches and earphones.
The world’s largest electronics, software, services and medical companies are among the many giants clashing horns on this so-called “new mobile phone” meaning the next potentially huge market after mobile phones, though rarely a direct replacement. Indeed, the biggest opportunity is medical/health/fitness addressing many of the biggest challenges in society today. Even software companies are saying, “hardware is the new software” because apps can now be modules or hardwired disposables and the intellectual property of the new hardware, such as sensing, energy harvesting/storing woven fibres, may be more disruptive and easily protected. The huge wearable technology market is now entering a rapid growth phase. IDTechEx has examined leading indicators of future wearable technology sales such as relevant Google Trends, patent filings over the years, incidence of diabetes (treatment being a major sector of wearable technology already), cost reduction of the key enabling technologies, increase in functionality that is becoming possible and initial sales of new smart wristwear such as the Samsung watch and fitness monitors. All show that very rapid growth is in prospect.
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