Wearables have gained some momentum with fitness bands and smart watches for consumers. Fitbit and Apple are the key category leaders in these markets, with others providing alternative ecosystems around similar functionality.
Early adopters and the fitness conscious embraced these devices, but there's been little growth beyond this market segment. Now that's about to change, with commercial applications for smart glasses and the development of compelling new use cases.
Smart Glasses Market Development
Smart Glasses are the highest growth sector of the consumer wearables segment over the next five years, reaching 11 percent of the overall wearables market by 2021, according to the latest market study by Juniper Research.
Revenues are forecast to grow from $327 million in 2017, to $9 billion in 2021 as the new generation of smart glasses emerges.
The new study also found that the dominant wearables categories of smart watches and fitness wearables, have begun to slow. They will claim just over 50 percent of wearables revenue by 2021, compared to an expected 75 percent this year.
In contrast, more ambitious wearable devices, which require new modes of interaction, will bring more and better devices to consumers in the near future.
Smart glasses are being re-positioned away from their technological roots to appear more like conventional glasses. New products from ODG and GlassUP look more like large sunglasses.
This design shift will likely help to remove the stigma of wearing smart glasses in public, as will the renewed focus on private use cases.
In addition, according to the Juniper assessment, new ear-based wearables, or hearables, will bring more possibilities. These devices are becoming platforms for digital assistants such as Alexa and Siri, as well as enhanced multimedia consumption, using voice commands and gestures as interaction methods.
The second biggest growth area will be in healthcare wearables – producing a $7 billion increase in annual revenues between 2017-2021.
Outlook for New Wearable Use Cases
The healthcare sector will change radically behind the scenes as healthcare databases store individual user data and provide personalized services and preventative recommendations.
However, the volume of information makes human interpretation difficult. That's where cloud-based cognitive computing and artificial intelligence technologies will augment the capabilities of medical staff.
"Wearable biometric data alone isn't immediately helpful," said James Moar, senior analyst at Juniper Research. "The key task for wearable healthcare now is to make the data meaningful to healthcare professionals. This means better algorithms to process the data, and new user interfaces to contextualize it."