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Smartwatches, smart clothing drive global wearables boom

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Smartwatches and smart clothing will drive the uptake of wearable devices, as research and advisory firm Gartner predicts global spending in this market will reach $52 billion next year.

This will be a 27% jump from this year, says Gartner, adding that spending on smartwatches and smart clothing will grow by 34% and 52% in 2020, respectively.

Ranjit Atwal, senior research director at Gartner, says: “More users coming into the smartwatch segment are replacing wristbands with smartwatches.

“While brand leaders, Apple Watch and Samsung Galaxy Watch, command premium pricing in the smartwatch segment, lower-priced players such as Xiaomi and Huawei will counterbalance high-priced smartwatches with lower cost smartwatches.

“We expect average selling prices of smartwatches to decline 4.5% between 2020 and 2021.”

Gartner says smartwatches and ear-worn devices will take the lead in terms of shipments in 2020, with smartwatch shipments forecast to total 86 million units and ear-worn wearable shipments reaching 70 million units.

Furthermore, Gartner notes data security and privacy is another influencing factor in the growing number of new wearable users.

“Wearable device organisations and ecosystem providers will continue to invest in protecting user data,” it says.

Gartner expects end-user privacy to remain an influencing factor impacting adoption, especially for healthcare use cases, where HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) in the US and relevant local regulatory rules apply.

The General Data Protection Regulation in Europe and privacy regulations in other countries will also further the cause of securing data and privacy rights, the research firm says.

Gartner says the ear-worn wearable market remains competitive, led by Apple (AirPods), Samsung (Galaxy Buds), Xiaomi (AirDots) and Bose (SoundSport), and new entrant Amazon.

“Other competitors such as Nuheara, Microsoft and Starkey are offering attractive products that fuel demand, such as hearing enhancements and over-the-counter hearing augmentation devices,” says Gartner.

The research firm adds that one of the biggest influencers of increasing adoption of wearables is users who are new to the wearables market.

“Other influences include improved sensor accuracy, advances in miniaturisation and better user data protection.”

Additionally, Alan Antin, senior research director at Gartner, says device-makers will focus on smaller and smarter sensors, “and those built into wearable devices will increasingly be capable of more accurate readings, enabling more use cases”.

According to Gartner, miniaturisation will also greatly benefit smart garments. It adds that advances in miniaturisation have enabled device-makers to integrate sensors, which can track sleep or medical conditions, into wearables that are almost invisible to end-users.

“These discreet and nearly invisible wearables will particularly increase acceptance among reluctant end-users,” Antin points out.

The company believes that, by 2023, miniaturising capabilities will advance so that one-tenth of all wearables will be unobtrusive to the user.

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