The wearable computing revolution may be getting closer to us than we think.
According to Swedish research firm, Berg Insight, the global sales of wearable computers–ie. wrist devices and fitness trackers–have hit 8.3 million units in 2012, which is more than 50% higher than the figures recorded from the same period a year ago. In 2017, that number is expected to grow even more substantially–eightfold, according to various sources–and arrive at approximately 64.0 million units.
Various factors are currently perceived to be critical when it comes to furthering the momentum within the wearable computing market. Berg Insight suggested in its report that in addition to acting as an accessory to existing hardware devices (ie. smartphones and tablets), the wearable computer must also be able to serve as a unique stand-alone product and take advantage of a wider range of available technologies within the industry.
“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 Svansberg, a senior analyst at Bergs Insight, noted. “Today’s devices need to evolve into something more than single purpose fitness trackers or external smartphone notification centres in order to be truly successful,” the analyst added.
The notable wearable wrist devices that are currently available on the market include Samsung’s Galaxy Gear, Pebble’s smart watch, Sony’s Smartwatch 1 and 2, Nike’s Fuel Band, Fitbit, and Qualcomm’s Toq. Of these, Pebble’s smartwatch has probably garnered the largest consumer following, although like the rest of the devices mentioned, getting the most of what it has to offer still depends on there being a reliable blue-tooth enabled smartphone nearby.
The technology and market prospects of wearable computing–regardless of their current limitations–will no doubt strengthen as an increased number of new products are released. While novelties such as Google Glass have been getting the bulk of the press’s attention, Svansberg, along with sources such as Timothy Stenovec of the Huffington Post, are convinced smartwatches will remain the dominant wearable computer on the market. The sense that people are gaining an increased appreciation for wrist-based wearable computers perhaps explains why Samsung felt compelled to launch its smartwatch device as soon as this year, and why more and more smartwatches are appearing in the tech scene.
In addition to the companies mentioned above, both Google and Apple are believed to be working on their own unique smartwatche devices, and will likely announce them at some point during 2014.
UPDATE: Google’s smartwatch, rumored to be the “Nexus Gem,” is expected to be announced alongside the Nexus 5 in a special media event in October.