Sales of wearable computing items — from Internet-linked watches to step-counting shoes — is to nearly double in the next few years, a market forecaster said on Wednesday.
International Data Corp (IDC) expects the overall wearables market to go from shipping 113.2 million units this year to some 222.3 million in 2021.
“Tomorrow’s wearables will become more fully featured and multifunctional, spanning health and fitness to communication and productivity,” IDC wearables team manager Ramon Llamas said. “Effectively, that will make today’s wearables seem quaint.”
Fitness-oriented wristbands, such as those from Fitbit Inc and Xiaomi Corp (小米), are the most popular wearables, but IDC forecast that they are to be overtaken by watches driven by fashion brands and those able to connect directly to the Internet without synching to smartphones.
“Smart” watch sales, led by Apple Watch, are to grow from 31.6 million this year to 71.5 million by 2021, more than doubling, IDC said.
“However, the struggle to move beyond health and fitness persists, and convincing consumers to spend more for utility that might not be immediately obvious will be a challenge,” IDC mobile devices senior research analyst Jitesh Ubrani said.
“This is where fashion-forward brands have a chance to shine,” Ubrani said.
People would begin using a variety of wearable computing, such as ear buds infused with digital assistants or clothing infused with “smart” computing, Llamas said.
Levi Strauss in September began selling a denim jacket with touch controls woven into the fabric in the first fashion offering stitched from a collaboration with Google.
The iconic California clothing maker, which has a legacy reaching back to the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s, set out to mine the mobile Internet boom with a “trucker jacket with Jacquard.”
The denim jacket, which is aimed at bicyclists, has a sleeve cuff made of special Jacquard fabric that synchronizes wirelessly with smartphones, enabling a limited set of commands using swipes or taps.
“Traditional earphones will give way to ‘smart’ earwear that feature fitness tracking, audio augmentation or personal assistants,” Llamas said.
“Clothing — the original wearable — will become ‘smarter’ with health and fitness tracking, particularly for professional athletes,” Llamas said.
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