Global retail revenue from smart wearable devices will triple in volume by 2016 before eventually reaching $53.2 billion in sales by 2019, according to Juniper Research. The findings were published in a new report, “Smart Wearable Devices: Fitness, Glasses, Watches, Multimedia, Clothing, Jewelry, Healthcare & Enterprise 2014-2019.”
The report maintains that the recent entry of key industry players within the wearables sector -- such as Apple, which introduced its Apple Watch on Tuesday -- is part of a process that will lead to an explosion of new devices in an already crowded market, which will see an increase in sales of premium smart watches and smart glasses over the next five years.
Design, Functionality Key
When we reached James Moar, the Juniper research analyst who wrote the report, he said leaps in both design and capability will play major roles in what could become a dominant market segment.
"We have seen smart watches getting increasingly more fashion-conscious as well as technologically advanced -- such as the Withings Activité (Swiss-made watch) and HP’s upcoming smart watch," Moar said. "We expect future releases to develop both these elements further into devices that consumers will find appealing."
However, Moar said that in order to reach that threshold, vendors might need to shift their thinking by focusing more on consumer benefits and less on glitzy technological advancements.
To that end, consumers want something unique out of their wearables, and are hesitant to buy devices whose functionalities are too similar to that of their smartphones, according to Juniper's report.
Small Companies Play a Role
Some of the sector’s most significant recent developments and hardware have come from smaller companies, the report noted. That has led key players to focus on platform promotions, including Google’s Android Wear, Samsung’s SAMI data architecture and Intel’s Edison design platform. This enables larger companies to respond easily to new device developments, relieving them of the chore of developing the devices themselves.
Juniper predicted that some of the more pronounced technological advances for wearables will be aimed at the enterprise and healthcare segments before being adapted for the consumer sector.
Other predictions from Juniper’s report: Smart watches will replace fitness wearables as the most purchased wearables category by 2017. As smartphones become more and more commoditized, wearables will continue being companion devices, with many models tied to specific operating systems.
Also worth mentioning in the future is the emerging segment of connected jeweler devices, or so-called smart jewelry, according to Juniper’s Moar. He said these tend not to display any outward technology, and in some cases offer unique uses -- such as the Guardian Angel, a portable and wearable safety device that flashes red and blue police emergency lights that are visible for up to three miles.
"We expect these to take a while to become established, however, as their use cases are niche and as yet are only produced by small start-ups," he says. "These are unlikely to reach even a niche audience successfully until late 2015 at the earliest."