Wearable Device Market Driven by Health, Wellness Products: ABI

Wearable technology will be characterized by diversity of products, but only product categories with clear use-cases and target audiences will succeed.

Smart glasses and smart watches will account for a small portion of the wearable device market in 2014, while medical, wellness and sports and activity wearable devices will provide the bulk of wearable device shipments this year, according to a report from ABI Research.

Concerns around weight management and even obesity are the prime drivers behind activity trackers, which are expected to be the most popular wearable device as people carefully monitor their activity levels and energy output.

ABI noted while wearable technology will be characterized by the diversity of products, only the product categories with a clear use-case and therefore target audience will succeed.

"The next 12 months will be a critical period for the acceptance and adoption of wearable devices," senior analyst Joshua Flood said in a statement. "Health care and sports and activity trackers are rapidly becoming mass-market products. On the flipside, wearable devices like smart watches need to overcome some critical obstacles. Aesthetic design, more compelling use cases, battery life and lower price points are the main inhibitors. How vendors approach these challenges and their respective solutions will affect the wearable market far in the future."

Mobile-enabling technologies such as augmented reality will play a vital part in enhancing smart glass capabilities, and ABI expects more than two million smart glasses will be shipped in 2014, and the category is forecast to grow rapidly from 2015 onwards.

While smart glasses could be the starting point moving away from today’s touch-screen smartphones to eyewear devices using a voice interface, pricing, battery life and style will all play crucial roles for market traction, and due to these limitations, the enterprise sector will be the early target for smart glasses before they are ready for mass-market adoption.

Meanwhile, chipset vendors are beginning to pave the way with interesting wearable reference designs that will allow non-technology original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and brands to quickly jump upon the wearable device bandwagon and bring diverse, innovative, unique and stylish solutions.

However, despite major GPS fitness device OEMs announcing new fitness products at CES 2014, it looks like an increasingly difficult battle between smart devices and wearables.

At the high end of the GPS fitness watch market, Polar has launched a new multi-sport watch, which features a barometric pressure sensor, support for new features such as a cycling power pedal, and an interesting price point of $450-$500.

In addition, TomTom has launched an iOS application that links its current GPS watch range to an iPhone through Bluetooth, and Garmin launched its Vivofit fitness band and Vivoki and Vivahub corporate wellness solution.

"Our forecasts for the overall GPS-enabled fitness area remain strong, hitting $2.6 billion in 2018, but as was the case with turn-by-turn navigation, converged devices and wearables will take an increasing part of the available market," senior analyst Patrick Connolly said in a statement. "The adage of keeping what we have is important here, retaining a firm eye on growth in professional users, with hardware and in particular eyewear, a major distinguisher."