Smart clothing and hearables to grow fastest in next five years

Smart clothing and earwear are poised to outperform other wearables over the next five years according to a new International Data Corporation’s (IDC) study.

The overall wearables market is expected to return to strong growth after a lacklustre 2016. Up to now, it was fitness trackers which fuelled wearable sales. Segments of the wearables market are, however, expected to shift toward specialized niche products in the coming years.

IDC’s latest Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker says worldwide wearable device shipments will increase from 102.4 million in 2016 to 237.5 million in 2021. This represents a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.3%.

“With the shift towards watches and clothing, the need of a fashionable design will take center stage,” said Jitesh Ubrani senior research analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers.

“Tech companies will be forced to step up their game and offer a wider selection of sizes, materials, and designs in order to appeal to a broader audience. We also expect more tech vendors to partner with fashion brands for their creativity, and equally important, their distribution network. In doing so, wearables will be made available to a previously unaware auidence – one that frequents fashion outlets over tech outlets.”

The days of ugly fitness trackers and bulky smartwatches aimed at tech buffs are clearly behind us. We’ve seen the recent launch of Withings Steel HR, the first analogue watch with built in heart rate monitoring. Garmin has joined in the fun with its stylish Vivomove device, as has Misfit with its Phase watch.

The market research company expects smart clothing to increase its market share from 1.2% to 9.4%. Sensors embedded into your every day wear are in a perfect position to understand the minute workings of your body. From monitoring your heat rate to analyzing your sweat and keeping tabs on your breathing. The possibilities are endless.

Hearables will also see healthy growth, increasing from 0.7% of the market to 1.8%, although volumes will remain low. It is fitness trackers that will suffer the most. IDC sees their share nearly halving during this period to less than a quarter of the market.

Interestingly, IDC is optimistic about growth prospects of smartwatches and expects them to increase their market share from 48.1% to 64%. The category has been very much feeling the pain in 2016. Going forward, the smartwatch market is expected to shift away from non-specialized product offerings.

“Watches struggled as mass market devices due to limited and unclear value proposition to a broad base of potential users,” noted Ramon T. Llamas, research manager for IDC’s Wearables team.

“Most potential customers saw watches performing multiple functions, but none of them worked exceptionally well to accomplish a myriad of tasks. Going forward, we instead expect watches to hyper-segment into specific niches, including connected kids’ watches, athletic watches, luxury and fashion watches, and lifestyle watches that better address different segment needs…”

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