Vendors are on track to ship 168 million wearable devices worldwide by 2019, according to a new forecast from Berg Insight, a Swedish market research firm specializing in machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT).
For some perspective, the analyst group said that wearable device shipments totaled 5.9 million units in 2013. This year, that figure is expected to hit 19 million. By their estimates, the wearables market will be growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 54.7 percent by the time 2019 rolls around.
And in that year, 16.6 million wearables will feature built-in cellular connectivity. Bluetooth will cling to its status as the connectivity option of choice, suggesting that most smartwatches, fitness trackers and the like will be paired to mobile devices in order to unlock their full potential.
In September, Juniper Research forecast that wearables shipments would reach 116 million devices by 2017. The firm expects vendors to ship 27 million units this year.
In 2014, shipments in the fitness and activity trackers totaled 13 million, making it the most popular wearables category, according to Berg Insight. That may change during the next few years.
"This product category is now facing fierce competition from smartwatches that have activity tracking features," said Berg Insight senior analyst Johan Svanberg in a statement. "Decreasing prices and new form factors will still enable dedicated fitness and activity trackers to reach shipments of 42.0 million units in 2019."
Sales of smart glasses like Google Glass have been modest, but advancements in technology will help the category land in the number three spot in the next five years. According to Svanberg, future smart glasses may pose a challenge to device makers like GoPro.
"The opportunities are plentiful – improved imaging capability together with hands-free operation, real-time communication and augmented reality functionality would for example make smart glasses a serious contender on the action camera market," he stated.
Expect "wearables" to expand well beyond smart glasses and wrist-worn devices. Berg Insight noted that companies are already exploring other form factors, like notification rings, motorcycle helmets and gloves. "Most of these products are still experimental, but in a few years' time there will be many examples of new successful devices on the market," Svanberg said.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Datamation. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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