Wearable devices are emerging as a next-gen IT industry, following smartphones. Global IT companies and semiconductor memory chip makers have rolled up their sleeves to dominate the wearable market, which is considered to be a new blue ocean.
Initiated by Google’s Glass and Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy Gear, the wearable market has seen a number of new entrants so far this year including Apple, LG Electronics, Sony, Epson, Intel, and Qualcomm, ushering in a new era of intense market competition. Their global market entry has contributed to the fact that the scope of the market has been expanded to a whole range of areas such as content, components, and networks for wearable devices.
According to industry sources on March 16, mobile device makers are actively seeking to penetrate the market. Handset manufacturers, which have been riding high until recently thanks to increased smartphone demands, are now paying attention to the wearable market as their new profit source, owing to slowing growth caused by market saturation. Developers of operating systems, smartphone chipset suppliers, home appliance manufacturers, and mobile carriers are pushing into the market as well. In particular, industry analysts are saying that as technological barriers for wearable devices related with materials and components have been mostly removed, the global wearable technology ecosystem of devices, platforms, and components will soon be completed. It means that the expanded market now encompasses various fields such as content, platforms, networks, and devices from mobile chip makers to network service providers.
The world’s number one AP maker Qualcomm debuted its first smartwatch, the Toq, in the market last year. NTT DoCoMo, the largest mobile carrier in Japan, is reportedly intensifying efforts to develop Hands-free Videoglass, which are planned to be smart eyeglasses. Cisco, on the other hand, is making an effort to develop Wearable IPS, which provides a single gateway to the Internet or wireless network. Epson already revealed its second-generation augmented reality device, the Moverio BT-200 smart glasses, at CES in Las Vegas.
Google is making a strenuous effort to develop its own smartwatch as well in partnership with occasional Nexus hardware buddy LG. The search engine giant is going to unveil its Android software development kit (SDK) for wearables at the end of March, ahead of actual devices, in order to gather “plenty of feedback,” since the company’s smartwatch will likely be the first device to run its new software. It shows Google’s ambition to make inroads into the wearable market, following its penetration into the smartphone market.
Samsung also showed its determination to dominate the wearable market by showcasing the Gear 2 and the Gear Fit, which are successors to the Galaxy Gear, at MWC2014 in Barcelona in late February. However, Apple’s iWatch is the one that is receiving a lot of attention in the industry, since the iWatch is rumored to be Apple’s first foray into wearable technology. The launch of Apple’s smart wristwatch, which is expected in the latter half of 2014, is likely to serve as an opportunity to turn the spotlight on the wearable device market. The expansion of three major IT companies – Samsung, Apple, and Google – is projected to have another profound effect on the IT and electronics industries.
Market research firms are optimistic about the outlook for wearable devices. “The shipment volume of wearable devices is forecast to grow as much as 155 percent, from 51,200 units in 2013 to 130.7 million units in 2018,” said IHS iSuppli in its report on last year’s global wearable technology.
The driving force for explosive growth in the wearable device market is mainly technological breakthroughs, since components and materials are getting smaller. Moreover, an increasing number of technologies for flexible displays and batteries are commercialized.
Currently, there is no dominant player in the market with many global IT firms. Market research firm Canalys announced that Samsung accounted for 54 percent of the global market for wrist-worn Smart Band devices in the latter half of 2013. However, the size of the market is still minuscule. Furthermore, there are no clear criteria for classifying and assessing wearable products.