The upside potential varies considerably, depending on the market segment and purpose of the wearable device. From a conceptual vista of broad electronic possibilities, the current reality of wearables is one of increasingly niche devices.
According to the latest market study by Juniper Research, global smart wearable device shipments will more than quadruple by 2017, reaching 116 million units, compared to an estimated 27 million in 2014. This still suggests that less than 5 percent of smartphones will be used with such wearables by this time.
Findings from the extensive Juniper study asserts that with technological barriers coming down, larger vendors in the market are moving beyond devices to produce software operating systems and data-banks to manage the information generated by wearables.
Recent examples of this phenomena include Google's Android Wear, Qualcomm's 2net and Samsung's Digital Health Initiative.
The Battle for Software Platform Supremacy
This new platform-centric focus will bring an explosion of new devices into an already crowded market, as smaller companies focus on producing quality hardware without needing software expertise.
As a result, the segment will be less open to truly unique innovations, with competing software platforms dictating capability. Increasingly, mobile applications developers will have to choose where they will invest their time and efforts -- in order to maximize ROI.
Consequently, independent wearables will remain rare, as mobile device manufacturers continue to build their software around a companion smartphone to encourage a dual revenue stream.
Juniper anticipates that increasingly capable smart watches will incorporate multiple sensors, negating the need for separate devices to measure health and fitness biometrics.
Their study findings suggest that, this will cut both ways, as several fitness devices such as the Samsung Gear Fit and Razer Nabu offer notification services in addition to activity tracking, assimilating smart watch capabilities.
Consequently, Juniper says they believe that it will take until 2017 for more smart watches to be used than fitness wearables.
Other key findings from the study include:
- More advanced wearable technologies will be developed first for enterprise and healthcare applications, as these segments have clear use cases that technology can solve.
- Smart wearable device revenues will reach over $53 billion in 2019.