Wearable Tech Market Boosted by Health, Fitness Devices: Gartner

Gartner also expects to see some updates and innovation in wearable cameras, smart glasses, smart watches and headsets at the CES convention.

Digital health and fitness will be one of the hottest segments in the wearable technology market at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next month, with 40 percent of exhibitor floor space being expanded for digital health and fitness exhibitors, according to IT research firm Gartner.

Fitness and health devices are mostly composed of activity monitors, pedometers and consumer heart-rate monitors, and may take the form of a fob or wristband, or embedded in a wrist watch, in clothing or in wearable accessories, such as shoes, hats and chest straps. The apps and services for these wearable electronics are typically provided free for use with the devices.

Among the types of devices CES attendees might see include smart undershirts for infants that monitor their heart rate, breathing and sleep. Wearable devices for home health monitoring of the elderly will include clothing and accessories, such as wristbands that can track heart rate, monitor activity level during the day, detect falls, provide location information and send alerts to caregivers.

Angela McIntyre, research director at Gartner, said she also expects to see some updates and innovation in wearable cameras, smart glasses, smart watches and headsets.

"Customers who choose to monitor themselves with wearable electronics are arguably more likely than most to have a smartphone. Connected wearable devices use Bluetooth to pair with smartphones to access the Internet," McIntyre said in an online Q&A. "The smartphone serves as a platform for apps to quantify consumers’ efforts and provides connectivity with services to store and analyze biodata."

Nearly half of Americans are at least a little interested (46 percent) in owning a watch- or wristband-style wearable tech device, with more than one-quarter (27 percent) specifying that they are very or somewhat interested, according to an online survey of 2,577 U.S. adults by Harris Interactive.

One bright spot for wearable tech is that fewer than four in 10 Americans feel it needs to cannibalize an existing tech category in order to earn their interest, with 38 percent saying they would only be interested in wearable tech if it could replace something they already use, such as a smartphone. Less than half (45 percent) disagree with this sentiment.

"To build successful ecosystems around devices, providers of wearable electronics should understand that consumers will consider how easily their wearable devices communicate with each other, with their other computing devices and with multiple screens. Data will be integrated from more than one wearable device to provide useful information and insights about fitness and health to the wearer," McIntyre continued. "Personal identification, biometric information and payment systems can be linked through wearable devices. Wearers can be admitted to events, access health records and make purchases through their wearable devices."