Global wearables market to reach US$17.4 B by 2023

As of 2018, the market size of wearables worldwide was estimated to be approximately $14.9 billion with a CAGR of 4.7% during the period 2019-2023 and market size reaching $17.4 billion by 2023.

  • Definition / Scope
  • Market Overview
  • Key Metrics
  • Market Risks
  • Market Trends
  • Industry Challenges
  • Technology Trends
  • Other Key Market Trends
  • Market Size and Forecast
  • Market Outlook
  • Technology Roadmap
  • Competitive Landscape
  • Competitive Factors
  • Key Market Players
  • Strategic Conclusion
  • References

Definition / Scope

The wearables are made up of electronic technology or devices integrated into items which can be comfortably worn on a body. These wearable devices are used for tracking information on real time basis.

These devices have motion sensors which gain information of the day to day activity and this information in turn can be synced into mobile or computer devices. After invention of smartphones, wearables are the second biggest innovation among the next-generation technologies. 

Before the wearables were commercialized in the consumer market, they were used in the field of military technology. At that time these devices were important innovation in the field of health & medical sector.

One of the earlier wearable products were smart shirts and wearable motherboards where application of these devices was made in health sector to monitor health and well-being of patients and send the real-time information to the hub station. 

The wearables technology can be segmented according to the product and geographic regions. Different segment of product types of wearables include: 

  • Smartwatches: The additional function to the regular function of telling time, smartwatches provides users notification on calls, messages and social media updates.
  • Fitness Tracker: These are worn as form of band in different parts of the body but usually wrists, they track the number of steps that users walk each day and continuously monitors the heart rate of the user too. The device is further able to calculate data on calorie burn and exercise done by user.
  • Head mounted-display: It is wearable that incorporates AR/VR technology mostly used in form of glasses and worn on eyes. It is used for gaming and entertainment purposes.
  • Ear worn: These wearables are worn in ears especially dedicated for listening to music and talking hands free.
  • Smart clothing: The smart electronic technology is embedded into the wearable clothing with fashionable look and design intended at gaining information on various parameters such as general health, body temperature among others.
  • Implantable: These are next-gen wearables where the device is surgically implanted under the skin and used for medical cases such as tracking insulin levels in blood among others.

According to the product, the smartwatches are holding major share in the wearable markets. The growing demand of smartwatches from millennials around the world is further driving the segment. Whereas in future the ear-worn and head-mounted displays will become more prominent as these are the fastest growing segments. 

According to regional analysis, Asia-Pacific is the largest market for wearables at present with more than 50% revenues of the region driven by China alone. The presence of tech giants such as Xiaomi and Huawei is driving the Chinese wearable market.

Further, the region is also adopting wearables at a decent rate i.e. 4.4% during 2019-2023 period and is expected to retain its leading position by 2023. High disposable income of people along with rising electronic industry is driving growth in the region.

After Asia, Americas and Europe are the second and third most prominent region in the technology. North America has the highest penetration rate i.e. 6.1% in the wearable technology around the world. 

Market Overview

Wearable technology are devices that are in general, embedded with smart sensors which can be connected to internet network to create a data exchange. Since 2000, with commencement of Bluetooth more than 325 million wearable devices have been initiated worldwide. 

By 2020, active wearable devices around the world is expected to reach 830 million where smart watches are going to be the most popular category accounting for 52% of the global market. In addition, during the same period of time, the total shipments of these wearable devices is going to reach 80 million. 

The top five nations in the wearable technology are US, China, India, UK and Germany. In terms of the revenues earned these countries are the biggest market the world. In addition, together 15 country markets ruled more than 80% of the worldwide revenues in wearables market in 2018. 

US was the top market in 2018 in terms of revenue earned from the sales of wearables technology where $3.09 billion worth wearables were sold i.e. 5.3% y-o-y increase since 2017 despite of this, the user penetration rate in US is just limited to 11.8%.

In China, the wearable technology revenues amounted to $4.5 billion in 2018. Wearables for children is the category that is highly popular in China with 25 million units sold in 2018 compared to US where only 1 million unit sales occurred. Whereas, European region is largely covered with regulatory issues and privacy concerns which led to few thousand sales of children’s wearables. 

In Great Britain, the popularity of fitness bands and smart watches rose by 18% in 2018 creating sales of 4 million devices. The ownership of smart-watches reached 9% and that of fitness bands 16% of the population in 2018 respectively. 

Smart watch is another segment within wearables, Apple is the leader in this segment accounting more than 60% (approx.. 16 million units) of the global sales whereas, fewer than 5 million units of Android wear platform were sold citing its unpopularity in the segment. 

The smallest but fastest growing segment within the wearable technology is: Smart clothing where only 4.1 million units of shipment was made in 2018 however, it is the most lucrative segment in future. 

The ear-worn segment sales accumulated to 33.4 million units in 2018 and is expected to become the highest selling category by 2020 making up to 158.4 million unit sales by 2020. 

According to a consumer survey on wearables by Ericson, in 2018, 74% of the consumers worldwide believed that wearables and smart sensors save time and build convenience for them. In addition, 30% of the consumers believe that they will be wearing at least 5 wearables by the end of 2020. 

In a course of decade, the wearables market in China is expected to be three-fold of US. Even western European region could witness similar amount of consumer interest driving the adoption of technology in the region. 

Market Risks

Many healthcare institutions that are leveraging wearables to seek consumer data are not considering to take necessary security measures before they collect such data.

Devices such as Fitbit, AppleWatch and other wearables raise privacy concerns for users and also serve as a source of opportunity for the cyber-attacks that are directed at the health institutions.

For instance, many of these devices have applications that contain several vulnerabilities and could become an easy target for cyber-attacks when the data from the device is transmitted to healthcare organization. 

At present the security of wearable devices or connected devices is not a concern for either manufacturers or consumers.

This is mainly due to lack of awareness but in case where a healthcare entity uses the wearable to get consumer data, countries such as US has binding laws called HIPPA that requires the organization to safeguard the information that is contained in the data and failure to do so may lead to their liability.

The organizations could be other than healthcare entity such as an employer receiving data of his/her employees or a factory manager receiving data on the productivity of the labors. 

So much data is collected in a wearable device such as smartwatch or pulse tracker that if such data is negligently stores then it can be stolen by a malicious third party which can sell these data to deceitful organizations that in turn use the data to access the health risks of user where such data if sold to insurers could lead to rise in health insurance premium or even policy cancellation.

The risk is so tangible that some wearable owners around the world are buying data breach insurance to protect themselves from such incidences. 

Another problem arises from the manufacturers that are more concerned about beating the competitors and get their product into the market first. They are not considering the repercussions of lack of security tied to these devices and simply putting them out in market.

The major challenge for the security people in the manufacturing organization is to make the consumers update their wearable device which is more complex than that of updating a smartphone and eventually consumers don’t make an effort to make these devices secure. To reduce the risks, companies must build privacy and security initially into the product development process. 

Wearable technology will face with immense adoption and popularity from consumers as the consumers appreciate the immediate access to fitness tracking, health tracking and other convenient measures. Although, at present no such mass-attack or privacy or security risk/ breach has been highlighted by the media but will definitely happen soon if any precautionary measures are not taken.

The experts around the world believe that the data in wearables is much more of a value than stolen credit card numbers and there are several implications to it which is why manufacturers and consumers both need to be aware about the security options available in the market and further governments around the world have to address this issue by mandating laws. 

Market Trends

In healthcare, medical wearable devices are being developed to support the users with specific conditions such as chronic obtrusive pulmonary disease, asthma, chronic pain and breast cancer.

The huge amount of data can be collected through these wearables that has numerous implication across the healthcare organizations, biggest one being the improvement of healthcare facilities.

Thus, the major factor driving the use case of these wearables in the sector is the personal consumer data received from these devices that is used by employers and insurance companies to manage costs. 

Within manufacturing industry, the executives have a positive attitude towards industrial sector. The development of smart wearables and sensors are designed in industrial environment with multiple uses that has led to positive outcome such as fall in worker injury and mortality, improved worker productivity and decreasing costs.

This in turn has increased the demand of wearable technology from number of players across the industrial sector. 

In the sports sector, the wearable technology is being exercised in B2C and B2B applications. More flexible materials are being used especially in textiles for athletes. As the sensor technology is getting thinner, lighter and flexible it will help the sports players move efficiently.

After tracking wearables, wearable textiles are the next thing in rise within the scope of the entire wearable technology. Further, research is also being done for the wash ability feature and also to extend battery life and recyclability. Although, the smallest segment, wearable t-shirts are definitely going to thrive in near future. 

Finally, in defense sector, advances in robotics and in materials is driving the innovation across smart wearables technology. Like sports sector, within defense also there is numerous opportunities to build innovative products that revolutionize the way soldiers interact with their garments.

The scope of nanotubes to make textiles lighter and flexible is further driving the use case of such seamless clothing into defense sector. 

Design limitations: The normal wearable accessories that are either digital or analog, such watches jewelry, wristbands or glasses usually showcase the personal identity of the person bearing it.

However, in the case with smart wearables, the device doesn’t portray the fashion trend of users but rather focus on other values such as convenience or utility. As majority of the manufacturers in the smart wearable market around the world are rather focused on technology than design, this in turn is limiting the demand of such products among users.

Additionally, most wearable devices are bulky due to the components used in them and generally don’t reflect the fashion preferences of bearer. 

High power consumption: Another major obstacle is the high power consumption of smart wearable devices. These wearable devices run on wireless networks, GPS and other technologies that consume enormous amounts of power.

Further, the battery power lasts for a day or two, in case it is used rigorously, the battery lasts for less than a day. For instance, Google Glass lasts only somewhere between 4-8 hours. These two factors: high consumption and low battery power is limiting the use and adoption of wearable devices. 

High cost: More than 90% of the smart wearables in the market is launched in the premium category which is expected to limit the use of the technology in mass market. For instance, ASP, a smart wearable device that has application across healthcare sells at $720-$750 for businesses and its lifestyle segment costs around $280-350.

Price of some of the branded products in the market are even higher, Google glass sells for $1,500 and mass adoption is this wearable device is very low specially due to price factor. 

Use restrictions: As wearable technology itself is a new technology which is presently at a growing stage, the technology requires strict laws and security to operate. As a result, the technology is banned across number of sectors such as casinos, movie theatres and even some restaurants. 

Industry Challenges

There are several challenges faced by the wearable manufacturers, especially during the product development phase where all components used in the product is concerned.

Any inferior part can lead the entire product to become unreliable and sometimes dangerous. There are multiple factors that the architectures need to consider such as product lifecycle, size, weight, reliability, resistance to body fluids and haptic.

For instance, in healthcare sector, medical wearables are sometimes incorporated with communication capabilities or its connection with telehealth which also means adding components such as antennae, transmitters and circuitry.

Thus, until the e-textiles that are more flexible and are capable of performing advance calculations without having to use traditional components, replacing more flexible components into such wearable devices remains a major challenge. 

Within the robotics sector where design constrain is the challenge. The requirement of the wearable robotics should fit the shape and function of the human body. The application of wearable in this technology is complex as the suit which is worn by the operator is multifaceted and wired up with electronic devices that enables the wearer to put the robotic devices through human like motion.

The limitation of design in the wearable has also limited its use across businesses and particularly in industrial sector for which it was initially developed, to aid automation. 

Multiple wearable solutions are being established across the professional sports which is currently expensive for every-day use. The cost of developing wearable for enhancing sports performance is very high but their usefulness is not yet being embraced highly by the end-users across the sector due to the lack of features. 

Finally, lack of data privacy and security is the biggest challenge for governments, consumers as well as manufacturers in the industry. As most of the wearables are in small size and have ability to store large amounts of data, the small size also means that there is chance of these devices being lost or misplaced.

Thus, the sensitive information stored in the device can cause disruption in work for users. The wearable devices also use GPS navigation system to receive location based information which requires the users to send their location to share the information. These information can easily be retrieved and used by the advertisers. 

Technology Trends

Some of the top technology trends in the global wearable technology market include the following:

Assault protection wearable: Around the world, there has been rise in several assault cases especially in women and such cases are projected to increase further in near future. A new use case has evolved in wearable technology where simply the gadget is veiled as an attachment to the garment and made to detect actions particularly, falls and force.

The rape protection is connected to phone by the use of Bluetooth where options can be chosen: shun it off in case it is false alarm or activate an emergency rape button if the assault is actually happening. Additionally, the contacted emergency will record the evidence in real-time from the other end which can be presented for legal action later. 

Smartwatches: The use of smartwatches is becoming most popular as the end value derived from the use of these devices is much more than just checking time. Apple has evolved the technology of smartwatches more than any other player in the sector.

With its latest series 4, Apple smartwatches can detect the heart complication that is being created with the help of inbuilt electrocardiogram technology in the watch. Further, it also detects panic for instance if the wearer of the device falls and will trigger send help notification to their physician and close family members. 

Smart rings: For 2019 and beyond, smart rings are trending and is gaining more traction among the businessmen and individuals who spend most of their time absorbed in meetings and would like to get notification without needing to look into smartwatches or mobile phones.

The smart ring is the most handy wearable device can be used for multiple purposes such as for payment and to get access into the car. Some of the trending products in the segment include, Lycos Life, Bling, NFC Opn, McLear and Oura smart rings.

Other biometric data can also be captured from the device such as number of steps made during the day or total calories burnt. In case, some people have heart problems, panic button can be activated in the ring that sends emergency help. 

Fitness trackers: Increasing diseases and health issues popping up around everywhere in the world, the fitness trackers are type of wearable which is becoming more popular at present.

Some of the wearable products in the market are Xiaomi Mi Band 2S which is far more affordable in capturing health data at a wide extent. Besides tracking heath data, trackers also send real-time texts and missed call notifications exactly the same way as a smartwatches. Some of the trending fitness trackers for 2019 are: Suunto Spartan and Polar OH1. 

Medical wearables: Some of the latest improvements made in the wearables used in the sector are able to cater highly accurate health data and connect remotely to the personal physician who will then be able to monitor the health progress and also check if the user is correctly using or taking their medications at time.

Some of the trending medical or healthcare wearables include: Google smart lenses, heatlh patch MD, Cloud DX vitality and iTBra. These devices are embedded with smart sensors that are able to identify if any disease is being built around the body, around any specific organ and doctors in turn use the data to prevent the disease from spreading into the body by treating it timely. 

Other Key Market Trends

Mostly due to growing urbanization and consumer trend to demand for aesthetically appealing wearables with advanced technology features which is convenient to use and of utility is driving the market for smartwatches around the world. 

The millennial population are the ones adopting the use of wearables which is increasing their dependency on the technology and also such wearables are increasing their luxury standards. The millennial expenditure is expected to increase across various economies. 

There are tech companies that are constantly working on to create more advance features for wearables, huge amount of research is being dedicated for the development of wearables with an aim to make these products more differentiated. 

These wearables are launched by companies such as Fitbit, Jawbone, and Apple and also act as activity trackers which has gained significant traction mostly due to increasing awareness of the importance of fitness across consumers. 

Some of the brands such as Apple and Fossil are also keeping the pricing consistent and competing head-on-head with the traditional brands that are providing these products around the same price. Other important players rising in the smartwatch category are TAG, Armani and Google. 

Finally, the “hearables” is another segment which is gaining strong pull with increasing adoption of smart assistants. Multiple players are initiating their products in the category every year due to rising demand and some of the active players in the segment are Apple, Google, Bragi, Samsung, Sony and Jabra. 

Market Size and Forecast

As of 2018, the market size of wearables worldwide was estimated to be approximately $14.9 billion with a CAGR of 4.7% during the period 2019-2023 and market size reaching $17.4 billion by 2023. 

In addition, the user penetration rate is limited to 4.8% only. In line with that, in global comparison, most of the revenue is generated in China i.e. $4.5 billion. 

According the revenue, growth rate and average penetration, the regional analysis of wearable market are as follows:

Asia-pacific: As of 2018, the wearable market revenues of the region amounts to $7.9 billion which is 50% of the worldwide revenues. The user penetration rate is 5.2% with approximately 227.9 million users. 

Americas: The region is second largest in terms of revenues earned where in 2018, the revenues of the region was valued at $4 billion. The user penetration rate is highest among all regions at 6.1% in 2018 with 59.9 million people using the technology. 

Europe: In 2018, the wearables revenues of the region was estimated to be around $2.4 billion making it the third largest region. Approximately, 42 million users were identified to use wearables across the region with penetration rate of 5% respectively. 

Africa: As of 2018, the wearable market revenues of the region is at $539 million. Only 18.1 million users in the region are familiarized to wearables technology and the penetration rate is also lowest at 1.6 %.

Australia & Oceania: In 2018, the wearable market revenues of the region was limited to just $191 million with lowest number of users i.e. 2.4 million. The region has also high penetration rate of 6.1% which suggests that despite of being low in population more number of people in the region are adopting the technology. 

Market Outlook

The worldwide revenues of wearables is expected to reach $17.4 billion by 2023 registering growth rate of 4.7% since 2018 and the total wearable device shipments is expected to reach 225 million up 25.8% from 2018. . 

The most popular segment within the wearables is going to be the smart watches with 74 million unit shipments by the end of 2019 and further 115 million by 2022. Additionally, 16.02 billion of spending will be in smart watches out of the total $42 billion on wearables in 2019. 

Despite smartwatches being the leading segment at present, by 2022, the “hearable” segment is likely to overtake the smartwatches with capacity of 158 million shipments annually. During the same time, the Apple airpods, Samsung IconX and Plantronics BackBeat FIT are some ear-worn wearable products likely to account 30% of the total wearable shipments in 2022. 

The smartwatch segment is going to mature and split into sub segments such as: leading consumer electronics, fashion & traditional, Children and special purposes. Some of the traditional manufacturers such as Casio & Fossil are also likely to grab up to 20% of the shares in the segment by 2022. 

And the third growing segment is: Head mounted displays. It is the fastest growing segment at a CAGR of 19% between 2018-2022 periods and expected to reach 80.1 million shipments by 2022. The main driver of the segment are its use cases in gaming and entertainment.

According to regional analysis, the outlook of the wearable technology around the world is as follows:

The growth rate of revenues during 2019-2023 period is 4.4% for Asia Pacific region reaching $8.6 billion with penetration rate rising to 5.3% by 2023. 

The CAGR for the Americas during 2018-2023 is 5.2% where the market is likely to reach $4.9 billion by the end of 2023. The penetration rate is going to remain stagnant at 6.1 %.

Across the European region, the growth rate of revenues is registered at 3.4% during 2018-2023 period with values reaching $2.8 billion by 2023 end. In addition, the penetration rate is expected to rise to 5.3% by 2023. 

The Africa region has registered a CAGR of 9% with revenues reaching $761 million by 2023 and penetration rate rising to just 1.7% in same time. 

Finally, the Oceania and Australia region is expected to grow by 3.1% during 2018-2023 period with revenues reaching $216 million by 2023 and user penetration rate to fall to 6%.

Technology Roadmap

Better OS (Operating System) for wearables: The past experiences has made Google, Apple and Samsung to offer more user-friendly smartwatches. Every time there is update in OS, the device has something new to offer.

In future, these players are intending to offer new features into the wearable such as Google’s new android wear 2.0 has Google Fit and Google Assistant this is competing with the Apple Watch that has already incorporated Apple pay services.

Aside from these tech giants, watch manufacturers such as Tag Heuer and Swatch have also shown interest in developing their own smartwatch OS. The Swatch is headed to leverage on in-house OS that will include features such as long-lasting battery life which clearly every other device at present lacks. 

Standalone, tether-free device: For future most of the manufacturers are also considering wearable devices that are tether-free and will be able to perform similar tasks as that of smartphone without having need to connect to smartphone at all.

This will further address the common idea among users who think that wearables are just mobile accessories. For instance, Samsung has recently launched a smartwatch with its own SIM cared slot and is able to run apps and connect to wifi or 4G data. After Samsung’s successful launch Apple is also expected to launch similar tether-free watch in near future. 

Accurate GPS: Japanese company Mitsubishi is aiming to replace US GPS system with a new one that is able to map out accurate locations than any other GPS present today.

GPS led to telematics which in turn helped to integrate technologies such as computers, smartwatches, smartcars and other assets but these smart devices will be more reliable in case GPS becomes more available. Thus, wearable technology/industry is expected to be developed and utilized in case where technology such as GPS gets upgraded. 

Competitive Landscape

Within the wearables market landscape there are several clusters present which include, health &clinical wearables, material suppliers, fashion industry that contributes in designing, tech innovators (startups, researchers and enterprises) and major competitors in the market that sell these wearables. 

Within the health & clinical cluster, the trend indicates, the use of wearable technology to monitor and detect health problems. It includes involvement of smartwatch manufacturers and also CPG companies.

For instance, the leader in the market Apple has been working on watch compatible insulin pump that can monitor blood sugar levels while Google’s Life science team Verily is working on smartwatch as well as smart contact lenses with application on medical field.

Another cosmetic company called Loreal has also launched a wearable with UV sensor patch that can be placed on the nails to detect amount of sun exposure, its purpose is to protect people against harmful sunrays that could cause cancer. 

There are approximately 653 global companies that are active in the wearable technology and are constantly selling it across several segments. The companies are largely focused around five major areas that include, 187 operating in Health & medical care, 88 in home and family care, 76 in sports and fitness, 146 in hardware and materials and 156 in software and applications. The healthcare wearable make the largest portion of the industry. 

Most of the startups that are working in areas such as incorporating mobile phones, AR or films into wearables are gaining high funding from the VC’s i.e. more than $1 billion compared to others that are operating in niche segments such as Child & senior care, IoT, sports & training, medical devices among others. . 

According to the maturity, most of the industry players are in their early years i.e. founded within last 8 years and focused largely around health & medical use cases. Company such as AliphCom received highest investment in 2018 that designs and distributed fitness bands connected to smart devices.

Another company called Movidius has also developed solution such as markets vision processing, robotics and AR that it is incorporating into wearables. The solution by the company is one of a kind, as a result it was acquired by Intel in 2016. 

Some of the largest tech giants around the world are the top investors in the wearable technology/electronics. These investors are also largely focused around certain categories such as Alibaba & Andressen Horowitz are more interested in investing on software and application while Y Combinator wants to invest in Home & Family care solutions. 

Regarding the acquirers, Amazon, Apple and Samsung have acquired two companies each and all the acquirers are simply acquiring companies operating in software, hardware and material solutions. 

Competitive Factors

Two of the tech giants in China namely Xiaomi and Huawei are placed in second and third spots in terms of the total shipments made. Shipments of both companies are neck-to-neck and the y-o-y growth of Huawei is more than 200% enabling it to surge up by four places even leaving Samsung behind.

These two Chinese companies are already in verge to overtake Apple. In 2018, the wrist wearable shipment of Apple (4.6 million) has already been surpassed by that of Xiaomi (5.3 million) and is almost in par with Huawei (3.9 million).

The only reason that made Apple retain its number one position is the ear-worn segment with device such as AirPods; despite being expensive it led to high customer demands and eventually contributed to company’s revenues. 

Mi Band which is Xiaomi’s most popular wearable sold for 5 million units becoming the highest selling wrist wearable in the world in 2018. In addition, during the same time Huawei and Samsung were also able to make heavy sales by bundling their wearable line with the hot-selling smartphones.

Samsung launched two more wearables in 2019 called Galaxy buds and Galaxy watch active offering wireless earphones as free gift for early purchasers of Galaxy S10. 

Apple was able to maintain its industry leader position with several wearable launches such as ear pods, watches and Beats headphones. Together the shipments made by the wearable segment of the company was 12.8 million in first quarter of 2019 however, its sales slipped but to 25.8% in comparison to same period in 2018.

Huawei closely following Apple has market share of 13.3% which is roughly half of Apple. The y-o-y rate of apple was limited to 49.5% whereas that of Huawei is 232.1% which suggests that Huawei has the potential to leave behind Apple in no time soon if it keeps growing at this rate. 

Key Market Players

The top 5 global players that dominate around 65% of the wearables market worldwide are follows: 

  • Apple
  • Xiaomi
  • Huawei
  • Samsung
  • Fitbit
  • Others

Strategic Conclusion

The use of smart wearable technology is increasing rapidly across all the regions around the world due to the technology becoming necessity.

As less number of devices are present and concentrated around few segments, in few years of time, more and more wearable products are going to be launched with wide range of applications across several sectors.

The competency of existing wearable products is also likely to improve with advancements in sensor technology which is expected to make these products more portable, flexible, reliable and secure. However, two concerns that are plaguing the technology market at present is security and design constraints.

The manufacturers of such devices must be aware of the importance of making such devices secure and consider the design factor to convince more businesses and consumers to use such devices.



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