Wearable Technology Market Swings Higher

Wearable technology is making a big splash, and the latest numbers prove it. According to {complink 8879|IMS Research}, the global market for wearable technology posted $2 billion worth of revenues in 2011, and projections are that by 2016, the market will be worth $6 billion. The research also shows that 14 million wearable devices were shipped in 2011, and 171 million devices are forecast to be shipped by 2016.

IMS Research's findings were published last week in a report entitled: “World Market for Wearable Technology — A Quantitative Market Assessment — 2012.” The report examined the world market for wearable electronic devices that are used in professional and consumer environments, and are worn by users for an extended period of time. The devices use advanced circuitry, are wirelessly enabled, and have the ability to process data.

The report found a growing need for the technology in healthcare, fitness, and wellness markets where these devices collect and electronically transmit a patient's vital signs. These vital signs include glucose readings, weight, or pulse. Leading products in this category include glucose monitors from Abbott Laboratories and Medtronic Inc., activity monitors, from Fitbit, Adidas miCoach, Nike Fuelband, and fitness and heart rate monitors from Garmin, Polar, and Suunto. (See: My Fitbit Experiment: End of the Line.)

However, while devices associated with healthcare have dominated the market, projections are that by 2016, infotainment will account for the largest revenue share, driven by the expected popularity of smart watches and smart glasses, Theo Ahadome, senior analyst at IMS Research asserts.

Ahadome sees Google's Smart Glasses and the rumored Apple Smart Watch as products that have the potential to take off in the consumer marketplace. With regard to the high tech industry, the wearable technology market brings new opportunities for chip manufacturers, component suppliers, and others to capture burgeoning opportunities.

Ahadome, who is the report's author, noted that growth in the wearable technology market is tied to the growth of the smartphone and gaming markets. According to IMS Research's figures, 485 million smartphones were shipped in 2011 and projections are that by 2016, over 1.2 billion smartphones will be shipped worldwide. There will also be an installed base of 8.7 billion cellular handset users in 2016, an increase from 5.8 billion in 2011.

The report notes that these trends will impact the wearable technology market in the following ways:

  • Smartphones: As the number of smartphone users grows and the smartphone become the hub of information for its users, there will be an increasing number of devices that will connect to and exchange data with smartphones. In the healthcare and fitness markets such devices include continuous glucose monitors and activity monitors. Similarly, in the infotainment market, Smart Watches and Smart Glasses are expected to increasingly share data with smartphones.
  • Smart Glasses: Smart glasses are expected to have built-in cellular connectivity, allowing them to independently receive and transmit data. Consequently, the growth of the Smart Glasses market is less dependent on growth in the smartphone market.
  • Smart Watches: Smart watches, however, primarily serve as complementary to smartphones; they display information such as incoming calls and to control smartphone applications. As a result, the growth of the smartphone market directly influences growth of the smart watch market. The smartphone installed base hence serves as the total available market for smart watches.
  • The Gaming Market: In 2011, it was estimated that there was an estimated 77 million registered PlayStation users and 35 million Xbox registered users worldwide. In comparison, there were only an estimated 50,000 Xbox users in 2002. The fast growing gaming market represents a significant opportunity for augmented reality devices such as heads-up displays and smart glasses, which aim to enhance [the] gaming experience.

16 comments on “Wearable Technology Market Swings Higher

  1. Cryptoman
    August 19, 2012

    I was quite surprised to see the tablets are not listed. Tablets have quite a large user base and come in different sizes and shapes very suitable for mobility and portability. I think they are a great platform for the infotainment market.

    I wonder why tablets were not included on the list.

  2. _hm
    August 19, 2012

    It is not very clear how one is too classify wearable technology? Is this electronics devices are embedded in one's dress or something similar? Can they be waterproof and can be used all time like while swimming and bathing? 

  3. Taimoor Zubar
    August 20, 2012

    @_hm: I think wearable technology would encompass anything that comes into contact with the human body parts other than hands. This would also include electronic dresses that you can wear and even chargers for electronic devices that can get attached to your body and derive energy from it.

  4. Taimoor Zubar
    August 20, 2012

    @Cryptoman: Tablets are not included because they won't count as “wearable technology” since they only come into contact with the hands and not with any other body parts.

  5. bolaji ojo
    August 20, 2012

    _hm, The simplest answer is yes. The more complicated answer is: “it depends on the device.” Some “warable technologies” are embedded in clothing and can be strapped on and used in all kinds of conditions, including in water. Others, of course, are not designed for acquatic conditions and would have to be taken off.

  6. Cryptoman
    August 20, 2012


    I did think about the wearability aspect before asking the question about the tablet but then I spotted the smartphone on the list which is not wearable either.

    Body contact is also an interesting point especially in terms of heart monitoring etc. However, the type of body contact that is required there must be on bare skin (such as that of a watch) Even though one can argue that smartphones do have a body contact, all they have is 'garment' contact. They do not make contact to bare skin when in a pocket for example.

    Therefore, I still cannot understand why the tablets were not listed.

  7. mfbertozzi
    August 20, 2012

    @Cryptoman: I agree with you; in fact, if we consider for just a moment, smartphones' features in terms of positioning-monitoring of location in near real time-ipv6 native support (at least for a part of them) which allows,natively, sensors' interaction, we can conclude they could be, absolutely, considered.

  8. mfbertozzi
    August 20, 2012

    @TaimoorZ: well, it is a good point; in a such way, I am for you, in the sense, a smartphone is not wereable, definetely; furthermore, I would say is a sort of a device close to each one individual and it provides human positioning, location and interaction in case of emergency. Do we need to conclude we can't consider them?

  9. SunitaT
    August 20, 2012

    the smartphone become the hub of information for its users, there will be an increasing number of devices that will connect to and exchange data with smartphones.

    @Nicole, thanks for the article. I am curious to know why do we need an extra device if smartphones itself can do most of the job the device can do? For example just installing an App on smart-phone can covert my   smart-phone to activity measurement device. So by installing App on my smart-phone I can easily replace by fit-bit.

  10. SunitaT
    August 20, 2012

    It is not very clear how one is too classify wearable technology?

    @_hm, wearable technology can be any gadget which can be easily carried around by the user and this device works even though the user is not really inputting any data. This device can be in any of the forms like dress,watch, wrist band, headset etc

  11. Wale Bakare
    August 20, 2012

    No doubt all these devices are closing to each other in usage, functionality and production — embedded components ( semiconductors especially). While latest researches in the field of semiconductor showing that, driver of these wearable technology and miniaturized is nanotechnology/nanoscience, infact we shall continue to witness and experiencing disruptivity and conflicting in terms of their usage.

    Nevertheless, why do you need SatNavs in your cars if your iPhones or Android phones could navigate you perfectly to your destinations? Why do you need Cameras if your Samsung Notes could take high quality pictures? I do think, and hope wearable devices have market potential in medical and other areas like sports etc. Smartphone and Tablet as wearables?

  12. Wale Bakare
    August 20, 2012

    Dont you think those devices are 100% embedded without human input unless they faulty for repair or power failure for battery replacement?

  13. The Source
    August 20, 2012

    Dear Readers,

    For those of you who want another example of wearable technology, here's one for all the readers who are parents.  Exmovere's product for babies, Exmobaby, is a snap-on garment, outfitted with wireless technology that monitors ECG, skin temperature and a baby's movement.  The technology can transmit alerts to a PC or cell phone.  For more information, the website can be found here:

    By the way, last December AT&T announced an agreement to wirelessly enable the Exmobaby baby pajamas. Here's the news release for more information:

    For those of you who have mentioned the issue of battery life for these wearable technology devices, here's an interesting article that looks at the work Georgia Tech researchers are conducting in this area.  The story says these researchers have developed a way to recharge batteries using body movement.  Here's the link to that story: 

    To all of you, thanks for reading my article.




  14. Houngbo_Hospice
    August 20, 2012


    This device can be in any of the forms like dress….

    The question is what should be added to a dress for that to become a wearable device? I suppose that such dress will not be anything like our traditional outfits.

  15. Houngbo_Hospice
    August 20, 2012


    Dont you think those devices are 100% embedded without human input unless they faulty for repair or power failure for battery replacement?

    The amazing thing with current technology is that devices are becoming more reliable and long-lasting, and they require “minimum” human input, unless they are counterfeit products. 

  16. mfbertozzi
    August 20, 2012

    @WB: well, it seems the discussion is still alive and open; speaking for myself, I personal think we could extend the horizon including other devices, such as NFC paradigm and so on, even they are not perfectly wearable.

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