Smart garments show greatest potential for growth among wearable devices

GartnerWearable electronic devices for fitness shipments are forecast to reach 68.1 million units in 2015, down from 70 million units in 2014, according to Gartner. This temporary dip in sales will be driven by an overlap in functionality between smart wristbands, other wearable fitness monitors and smartwatches.

However, the market for smart wristbands and other fitness monitors will rebound in 2016 because of versatile designs and models with lower-cost displays.

“Fitness wearables are used for tracking health, which goes hand-in-hand with fitness and wellness. Consumers will be able to integrate the data from most wearables into a single account where their data can be analysed using cognizant computing to provide useful insights to wearers.,” said Angela McIntyre, Research Director of Gartner.

She noted that funding initiatives from the likes of Qualcomm, Apple (HealthKit), Google (Google Fit), Samsung (S.A.M.I.), Microsoft, Nike, and Intel would build on early innovation in wearable fitness and health monitoring and create the infrastructure for merging data relevant to health and fitness.

The five main fitness wearable form factors are:

  1. smart wristbands
  2. sports watches
  3. other fitness monitors
  4. heart rate monitor chest straps
  5. smart garments

Sports watches and chest straps are well established, compared with smart wristbands first popularised by the Jawbone Up in 2011.

However, Gartner believes that the smart garment product category has the greatest potential for growth going forward because the category is emerging from the testing phase and smart shirts are available to athletes and coaches of professional teams.

Smart garment shipments are forecast to grow from 0.1 million units in 2014 to 26 million units in 2016.

Worldwide Wearable Electronic Fitness Devices Shipments Forecast, 2013-2016 (Millions of Units)

 Device Category

2013

2014

2015

2016

Smart Wristband

30

20

17

19

Sports Watch

14

18

21

24

Other Fitness Monitor

18

20

12

15

Chest Strap

11

12.1

8

7.3

Smart Garment

0.01

0.1

10.1

26

Total Market

73.01

70.2

68.1

91.3

Source: Gartner (October 2014) 

For the present, however, smart wristbands and other fitness monitors are the most popular form factors.

“Smartwatches having retail prices of US$149 or more will typically have the capability to track activity and have accelerometers and gyroscopes similar to their smart wristband cousins. The smartwatches differ from smart wristbands in that smartwatches need to display the time and have a user interface oriented around communication. However, some smart wristbands have the ability to display and send text messages. The overlap in functionality between smart wristbands and smartwatches is expected to continue,” said McIntyre.

Gartner further predicts that in 2018 through 2020, 25 percent of smart wristbands and other fitness monitors will be sold through nonretail channels. During this time scale, smart wristbands and other fitness monitors will be offered increasingly by gyms, wellness providers, insurance providers, weight loss clinics or employers, sometimes at subsidised prices or for free.

These companies will serve as a growing distribution channel for device manufacturers. The new channels also result from fitness monitors being integrated into employee badges or identification bracelets for access control. Business-to-consumer (B2C) companies will have rewards or gamification linked to the use of wearables as a way of keeping customers engaged with their brands.

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