smart tech

We recently examined Apple's strategy for gaining home automation market share, and the concept of digital assistants reared its head.

Why are we referencing apples strategic goals when we’re looking at the present state of wearable smart home devices?

Well, a recent IDC report forecasts that wearables will grow by over 15% equating to 198.5 million units shipped worldwide by the end of this year and is projected to hit 279 million by 2023.

Why is this?

Why International Data Corporation Forecasts Explosive Growth and Change in Wearable Sector

Digital assistants migrating to wearables is one of the primary reasons put forward by IDC for this aggressive and continued penetration into the connected home:

“The integration of with wearables opens up new use cases…to tie into the smart home.” - Jitesh Ubrani, Mobile Device Trackers (IDC)

Ubrani points to both wrist-worn and ear-worn wearables with smart assistants being a trend worth watching for.

Ramon T Llamas, the research director for IDC’s Wearables section also flags enterprise adoption and healthcare as “major drivers for the wearables market.”

Llamas suggests wearables will be pivotal to digital health, both in terms of data collection and self-monitoring.

In the business landscape, Llamas flags the accelerated transmission of information as a key to workers completing their tasks more rapidly along with streamlined processes.

  • Key Takeaway: Digital assistants on wearables along with their use for healthcare and enterprise will continue to drive them further forward

The Evolution of Wearables: From Basic Wearables to Smarter Wearables

Fundamental to this continued growth is the way wearables are soon to shift from more basic devices to far smarter alternatives.

Forecast data from IDC carves up the wearables sector market share for 2019 as follows:

  1. Watches: 45.6%
  2. Earwear: 27.4%
  3. Wristbands: 24.7%
  4. Clothing: 1.5%
  5. Others: 0.8%

Right now, some smartwatches allow you to control lights and thermostats in your connected home.

Fitness trackers are offering more and more insight into stress levels and capable of tracking breathing exercises and meditation as methods of alleviating this stress.

How, then, will these various categories evolve in the imminent future?

We'll take a more in-depth look into each category to see how things might pan out but before that let us take a glimpse forward to projections for 2023 market share.

  1. Watches: 47.1%
  2. Earwear: 31%
  3. Wristbands: 18.1%
  4. Clothing: 3.1%
  5. Others: 0.8%

As you can see, while smartwatches are still slated to head the wearables pack, earwear looks set to gobble up substantially more market share. We'll look at why that is after a walk through the changing role of smartwatches.

1) Watches

Smartwatches have made a quantum leap in a short space of time.

Apple Watch was launched back in late 2015 and shifted over 4 million units in the second quarter of that year alone.

Now discontinued, we're into the fourth iteration of this smartwatch, and it still holds on to by far the lion's share of this market.

Smart Watches Market Share

Apple is nudging 50% of market share with WatchOS. IDC predicts that despite growing competition from WearOS and watches running a forked version of Android, WatchOS will still account for 27.5% of all watches by 2023.

For now, Apple still very much rules the roost.

With Apple Watch 4 set to release there are plenty of rumors about the fifth generation.

With the fourth series, it’s arguably the ECG capability that's most relevant to the future path these wearables will tread.

Medical-Grade Smart Watches

As evidenced in the IDC report, it’s the manifestation of medical-grade smartwatches that might turn them from handy playthings to far more useful pieces of kit.

Apple Watch kickstarted this trend with the FDA-certified capability of Watch 4 to administer an ECG and could help tip you off to any developing heart problems. Medical-grade data has the capability of being shared with your doctor.

Although not yet certified outside the US, Apple has nailed its colors firmly to the mast here. Gone are the days of reckless gold-plated limited editions and ushered in is a real focus on health and fitness.

This functionality is projected to launch in September 2019. With any luck, the EU along with other territories will also obtain certification for the EKG feature by then.

The workout app is also being tweaked continuously to incorporate tracking for hiking and yoga. You can collect all the health data you need on your Watch then look into it more deeply on the larger screen of your iPhone.

Fall detection is another essential addition to this series of Watch and ideal for elderly relatives. It's not just those advancing in years who could benefit from this either. Do you have epilepsy? Are you prone to seizures? If so, this is a valuable helping hand available at all times on your wrist.

You'll need a third-party sleep tracking app if you want to make use of data in that field, but the battery on Watch is more than robust enough to last the night. You can import all data directly into Apple’s Health app, too.

Since watches represent such a sizeable chunk of the growing wearables sector, it’s not surprising that competitors have aggressively entered the fray.

Equally unsurprisingly, many are focusing on the same medical and health aspect.

Samsung is likely to announce Galaxy Watch 2 this year and expected to hit the shelves in the fall and remains to be seen whether Samsung will play follow the leader and incorporate the medically-certified tech.

Garmin has partnered with ActiGraph. This health analysis company specialized in sleep monitoring equipment and medical-grade activity gear.

According to Garmin, this partnership will "explore…innovative health and activity monitoring solutions” with Garmin wearables combining with ActiGraph’s data analytics platform, CentrePoint.

It remains to be seen how this will pan out for the company's smartwatches.

Google currently produces no proprietary wearables to save the Pixel Earbuds.

While the search giant develops WearOS, it does not currently make watches, but things could change.

Hiring for VP of hardware engineering, one of the prerequisites for candidates is 15 years in the saddle “developing consumer electronics products.” Advertising for other senior wearables staff, the writing is on the wall for a first-generation smartwatch from the mighty G sometime soon.

2) Wireless Headphones and Earwear

Projected to occupy a fractionally larger market share than wristbands over the coming year, earwear, also known as hearables or ear-worn devices, is likely to continue surging forward between now and 2023.

Wireless headphones are getting smarter and becoming Alexa-enabled.

Predictions for the near-future include biometric sensors, again tying in with the sustained importance of health on wearables.

Jabra Elite 85h headphones, announced at CES 2019, take noise cancellation to new levels. Packing AI and eight mics, these cans will offer multiples modes suitable from commuting through complete privacy. You’ll be able to choose from Google Assistant, Alexa or Siri baked in.

Translating devices are also another area where things will keep on edging forward.

Waverly Labs Pilot earbuds started as a 2016 Indiegogo campaign, and the $250 earbuds are now shipping to early adopters. Their stated goal is to eliminate all language barriers through technology, invaluable in our ever-shrinking global village.

3) Wristbands

While wristband market share is expected to dip by 2023, over the coming year fitness trackers are still nipping hard at the heels of ear wear.

Garmin leads the charge with Charge 3 now able to monitor a widening array of health variables during the day and while you sleep.

That partnership with ActiGraph will lead to better extrapolation of data and keener insights into health for you, the consumer.

“Combining data from Garmin wearables with the analytical expertise of ActiGraph creates a powerful solution for patient monitoring applications.” - Travis Johnson, Garmin Health

Since consumer wearables are much more comfortable than traditional medical-grade devices, these devices tend to be worn for more extended periods what this means is more data can be collected and better analysis performed.

Next-generation wristbands from Fitbit will feature more intelligent algorithms, additional sensors, and sleep monitoring, a swelling trend that shows no signs of abating.

As health spills over into wellness, wristbands will also focus more on detecting mood and stress levels.

With wristbands in danger of falling away from the market leaders in the wearables sector, it's also highly likely they will pivot. Expect more smartwatch features appearing on fitness trackers in a bid to arrest this slide from favor.

4) Clothing

We'll only touch on connected clothing briefly since it's a minor player in the wearables market.

Until now, step-counting shoes and the like have failed to gain much traction outside of the Chinese market, but things are perhaps changing.

Brands like Under Armour and the colossal Nike are increasingly beginning to explore connected clothing. Hyper Adapt shoes with self-tying laces have already come to market and mass adoption will bring the eye-popping price tag down.

Google has also partnered with Levi’s to develop the Commuter X, a denim jacket allowing you to control your phone using gestures.

You can expect more hook-ups between tech and fashion giants as smart clothing technology evolves. Think Ralph Lauren’s self-heating jacket and Julianna Bass’s color-changing dresses.

In line with IDC's tip about enterprise applications, expect connected clothing with commercial applications to grow in prominence. Keeping workers safe from hazardous situations is always crucial for employers and wearables are likely to move in this direction if the consumer side of things doesn't take off more thoroughly. Industrial and military adoption is expected to happen before mass consumer adoption, but the future is glimmering for smart clothing, even if it’s only in its infancy right now.

5) Others

Here, the role of Japan is always central to the way things develop.

The Japanese markets account for fully 1/3 of all smart wearables, and the onus is always on bleeding-edge tech.

Although Other wearables account for only a minute market share right now, how might things change in this area?

Well, flexible display technology, already in evidence on folding phones from Samsung and Huawei is taking a new direction thanks to a company you might not yet have heard of just yet.

Nubia first demoed the Alpha at CES 2019, but at MWC a few more details came out concerning their wrist-worn smartphone.

Described as a "wearable smartphone," the Alpha boasts a 4-inch OLED display and comes with both Bluetooth and WiFi along with a 5MP camera.

In many ways, the Alpha rolls the most attractive features of smartwatches and fitness trackers together and lumps in the ability to make calls, send messages and use the Internet.

Powered by a Snapdragon processor and running on a bespoke OS, expect the Nubia Alpha to start shipping in April. Maybe this will presage a new direction in smartphones but only time will tell.

Expect the same health focus to extend to pet wearables, too. From tracking movements to tracking health, smart collars like the RAWR are likely to gain further currency.

Other ways that other wearables might develop over the coming years requires a crystal ball we don’t possess. As with all areas of this sector, though the future looks enticing for you, the consumer as manufacturers continue attempting to slice off more of this valuable pie.

Final Word

We hope today has shown you clearly that wearables are more than just needless gadgets.

You should also now have a sounder idea of how many wearable techs is evolving in terms of home automation. As with every aspect of domotics, exciting times loom as we edge closer to 2020.

Come back next week for more future-casting. We’ll be looking at emerging trends for this coming year along with a glimpse at the impact of smart home technology on real estate.

Bookmark our blog to stay entirely in the loop with all the latest smart home news and come back soon.

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