There are some out there who believe that the tablet and the smartphone, disruptive technologies that fundamentally shook the PC market, will in turn be disrupted by the rise of wearable devices. On a certain level, this makes sense, but it's going to require a pretty substantial number of devices—probably more than is seen right now—to make such an advance happen. But some project big changes in the numbers of devices to ship, and Tractica recently released a report suggesting that there are big changes afoot in the market, with 2020's shipping numbers set to blow away previous records.
The Tractica report in question—titled “Wearable Device Market Forecasts”—noted that, in 2013, there were right around 17.0 million devices shipped in the wearable devices classification. Not a bad number, especially for a market that's really getting started, but Tractica's projections suggest that this market has a lot of room to grow. By 2020, the report notes, the total shipment for 2020 will be 187.2 million units. That represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 34 percent, which is a pretty healthy standard for growth.
Leading the way on these huge gains is the smart watch market, which is expected to see the highest demand, with this year launching a huge surge followed by lesser but still quite “healthy” growth rates up to 2020. Meanwhile, fitness trackers will also grow, though not necessarily at that kind of speed. Tractica looks for smart watches to consume more than a little of the fitness tracker market, though certainly not all of it.
Tractica research director Aditya Kaul, meanwhile, offered up some comment around the report, noting that the Apple Watch is likely to prove the “hero device” that the industry really needs to get attention to the sector, operating for wearables in much the same way that the iPhone (News - Alert) did for smartphones and the iPad did for tablets. Kaul goes on to note that the wearables market is a lot bigger than just smart watches and Apple, with wearable cameras, body sensors, smart glasses and other devices throwing in, so there's likely to be gain that's not accounted for by these two measures alone.
This is an important point to make; Apple (News - Alert) is going to be a big part of this process, but it certainly won't be alone here. It's entirely possible that Apple may not control a majority of this market at all, but rather be one player among many. It's also possible that Apple may end up shutting down a few such competitors, either through buyouts or through direct competition, but this is going to be a market with a lot of diversity and a lot of exciting things going on in the process. The sheer number of applications and form factors in the field all but ensures that there won't be many clearly dominating firms; there's such a large number of fields to get in that it would split the focus of all but the biggest to compete in too many at once.
Still, this is still a market just getting started, and the end result means real potential for major upheaval in the short term. Wearable devices are likely to be very big in the coming years, and if Tractica's projections are accurate, we'll be hearing a lot more out of this field before it's all said and done.
Edited by Maurice Nagle
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