Shipments of connected wearables reached 72.5 million in 2015, that's up from 25.3 million devices in the previous year, according to the latest worldwide market study by Berg Insight. Many of these devices have become a significant part of the emerging Internet of Things (IoT) phenomena.
Increasing by a compound annual growth rate of 25.8 percent, total global 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 228.3 million units in 2020.
Moreover, Bluetooth will remain the primary M2M wireless connectivity option in the coming years. However, a total of 17.8 million of the wearables sold in 2020 are forecasted to incorporate embedded cellular connectivity, mainly in the smartwatch and people monitoring & safety categories.
Apple entered the connected wearables market in Q2-2015 and quickly became the leading smartwatch vendor. The competition is responding with increasingly capable and attractive devices from Android Wear vendors including Motorola, LG, Huawei and Asus as well as from vendors betting on other platforms such as Samsung and Pebble.
Smartwatch sales have picked up considerably during 2015 and shipments are on the track to reach 19.5 million units by the end of the year, a 353 percent increase year-on-year.
"This market development has not gone unnoticed by the traditional watch industry and several vendors including Fossil and TAG Heuer have presented smartwatches of their own," said Johan Svanberg, senior analyst at Berg Insight.
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.
Today, fitness & activity trackers is still the largest device category and shipments are expected to reach 51.0 million units in 2015. Decreasing prices and new form factors will still enable dedicated fitness & activity trackers to reach shipments of 71.0 million units in 2020.
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 enabled the development of a wide range of new connected wearables such as authentication and gestures wristbands, notification rings, smart motorcycle helmets and smart gloves.
According to the Berg assessment, shipments of smart glasses have so far been very modest, but promising use cases in professional markets will enable smart glasses to become a sizeable connected wearable device category in the next five years.