Sales of smart glasses, smart watches and wearable fitness trackers reached 8.3 million units worldwide in 2012, up from 3.1 million devices in the previous year, according to a research report from the analyst firm Berg Insight.
Growing at a compound annual growth rate of 50.6 percent, total shipments of wearable technology devices are expected to reach 64 million units in 2017, the report said.
“A perfect storm of innovation within low power wireless connectivity, sensor technology, big data, cloud services, voice user interfaces and mobile computing power is coming together and paves the way for connected wearable technology,” Johan Svanberg, senior analyst at Berg Insight, said in a statement. “The first generation of products appeal to specific markets and certain use cases, but refinement in design, technology and connectivity will broaden application areas and speed up market adoption.”
The report noted that while today, wearable fitness and activity trackers constitute the vast majority of the shipments, by the end of the forecast period, smart watches would incorporate much of the functionality of these and will then be the largest wearable device segment.
“Initially, the wrist is the most attractive location for wearable devices, which is shown by the success of the Pebble smart watch and the popularity of wristband activity trackers such as the Nike Fuelband and the Fitbit Flex,” Svanberg said. “However, today’s devices need to evolve into something more than single purpose fitness trackers or external smartphone notification centers in order to be truly successful.”
Google, Sony and Samsung have already launched products, and other major players such as Apple and LG are expected to soon enter the market. Wide market availability of wearable devices also raises privacy concerns, the report said.
Dell officials reportedly are eyeing the wearable computing market, an increasingly competitive space that is garnering attention from top consumer tech vendors like Google and Apple. As they continue to contend with shrinking global PC sales and a controversial bid by CEO Michael Dell to take the company private, Dell officials are looking for potential growth markets.
According to Sam Burd, vice president and general manager of Dell’s Consumer and SMB Product Group, the company sees opportunities in computing devices that can be worn on a person’s body, such as on the wrist, a report in July in The Guardian indicated.
Berg Insight predicts that wearable technology will shift from being smartphone accessories into becoming proper stand-alone computing devices. Furthermore, closeness to the body and always-aware capabilities will enable them to be more than merely miniaturized smartphones.
“It is still uncertain where lines should be drawn, but as in the case with most new technology, individual users and solution providers have the responsibility not to misuse the capabilities enabled by wearable tech,” Svanberg said.