Healthcare offers major opportunity for wearable technology
According to a new report from research company IDTechEx the wearable market will be worth over $24 million this year. But much of this is for existing technology like smartwatches and fitness trackers.
Where are wearables headed in future though? According to the report the biggest opportunity is in medical and healthcare applications. Including blood glucose monitoring, healthcare is already the largest single sector by revenue in wearable technology and is likely to stay that way.
"More than any other sector, healthcare applications require data reliability and accuracy," says Raghu Das, CEO of IDTechEx. "Whilst many of the tests that are currently carried out under hospital conditions can be made wearable, the challenge is to achieve equivalent or superior reliability and accuracy at sensible price points. That said, wearable technology solutions offer more practical, comfortable and convenient solutions in many healthcare situations".
Expanding wearables into healthcare involves long lead times due to the need for clinical trials. However, there is potential for very lucrative sales for companies that get things right.
Other expanding sectors include infotainment, although devices like Google Glass and Oculus VR headsets have driven the hype in this area they haven't translated to large scale sales. IDTechEx points out that devices in this field such as smartwatches are subject to commoditization by Chinese manufacturers which drives up volumes and reduces prices.
Commercial use is the other area to watch. It has lower barriers to entry than healthcare and is less subject to commoditization than infotainment. Uses range from tracking technologies in wearable devices to replace scanners for warehouse processes, to tracking systems in smart glasses for providing assistance to workers in a hands free way, or wearable cameras used for quality control.
"Many of the opportunities using existing sensors are still to be explored, but in many cases components such as sensors would need specific adaptation for these applications. This acts as a barrier that has restricted the number of easy wins so far, but those that have invested heavily will begin to see the rewards in the next 2-5 years," Das says.
For more information and to buy the full report you can visit the IDTechEx website.