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All dressed up: smart wearables get fit in 2014

Shipments of smart wearable are set to rise five-fold over the course of the second half of 2013, according to Canalys

Smart wearables are set to be one of the sexier topics in the industry over 2014. Kicking off next week, consumer electronics trade show CES is expected to be a showcase for progress the industry has made in this nascent product category.

Smart wearables refer primarily to connected watches such as the Pebble Watch or Samsung’s Galaxy Gear and internet connected visual aids such as Google Glass. But they also include a plethora of sports performance monitoring aids, so device capabilities vary significantly.

While a relatively modest 200,000 smart wearable band devices are estimated to have shipped worldwide in 1H13, research firm Canalys believes this number will have increased five-fold over the course of the second half of 2013.

But many products are still in the development cycle. Makers of smart watches are reportedly seeing difficulties applying surface treatments on their metal injection moulded chassis and reviewers of Google Glass have criticised the device for its battery life and the fact that the device heats up with usage. Battery life is set to be a key issue for the sector as most wearable devices will have to be taken off in order to to charge them, limiting their usefulness.

Still, some analysts have high hopes for the product sector.  Ben Wood, chief of research at analyst firm CCS Insight hailed smart wearables as a “category with explosive growth potential”. The analyst believes smartwatches alone have the potential to reach sales of 12 million units in 2014.

“Echoing the dramatic growth pattern seen with tablets, the company believes that in an optimistic scenario sales could rapidly rise to over 100 million units in 2017 as prices crash,” he said.

Wood noted the success of products such as Nike’s FuelBand, which monitors fitness activity, have shown there is a considerable market for wearable devices targeting fitness enthusiasts. CCS Insight believes “fitness band” sales could reach 36 million units in 2017, but also warned that smartphone companions, like smartwatches with wider functionality could make pure fitness trackers redundant.

In addition to Google, Apple, Nike, Pebble and Qualcomm, Sony, Samsung, Casio, Adidas, Epson and LG are all preparing to launch wearable devices in 2014.


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