The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of Wearable Technology


In 2012, the worldwide market for wearable technology was estimated to be around $750 million, according to various research papers, including one issued by American firm Transparency Market Research. In 2018, that estimate is set to reach $5.8 billion.

Let’s just say that number again – five point eight BILLION dollars. That’s more than the GDP of many small countries, and just on wearable technology. The US is probably the largest potential arena for wearables, with a 43% share of the market, closely followed by the Far East and Europe. Currently, wearables are doing particularly well in the healthcare sector and are having a real impact on preventative rather than reactionary medical treatment. By monitoring patients using wearables, doctors and healthcare professionals can respond instantly to data downloaded in ‘real time’, making it easier to control conditions such as heart disease without lengthy hospital stays.

A close second – and probably a much more consumer-friendly market – are wellness and fitness wearables. Nike has led the charge with their Fuelbands, but others are now developing their own sports and fitness wearables. The Transparency Market Research analysis of the current state of wearables estimates that by 2018, fitness and wellness wearables will have become a much larger market sector, closely followed by AI wearables such as Google Glass.

But there are some factors that could skew the figures, not least of which is the current cost of wearables. Put simply, they’re not cheap. While the technology exists to develop wearables, including flexible plastic screen technology and organic electronics, it’s still very much in the developmental stages, and there will be a lot of ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’ failures along the way.

There’s also the question of whether the public will really embrace wearables, and whether the pros of having wearables in our lives outweigh the cons. Do consumers actually need wearables, or are they simply a technology fad?

Part of our busy lives

One of the biggest advantages of wearable tech is that it fits in so easily with our busy lives. By its very nature, wearable technology is designed to make our lives easier, and with many innovators now incorporating wearables into the ‘internet of things’, interaction between wearables and existing tech will make them much more adaptable and flexible.

However, there are a few challenges that have yet to be overcome. The first is that it’s very expensive. Something like a smartwatch or a sports band will set you back at least a couple of hundred pounds, so can cash-strapped consumers who are still struggling to fight their way out of the recession afford to splash out on wearables?

Secondly, the technology is still at the developmental stage in a lot of cases, so for example smartwatches with flexible screen technology are lacking a broad colour palette and the frame rate needed to offer a smooth, jerk-free motion.

However, companies involved in wearable technology believe that these challenges will be easily overcome, given time and further research into flexible technology and organic electronics.

Indro Mukerjee, the CEO of innovation experts Plastic Logic said recently: “Flexible electronics is a reality, already proven through the development and manufacture of plastic, bendable displays and sensors. For the first time a fully organic, plastic, flexible AMOLED demonstration has been achieved with a real industrial fabrication process. This marks the start of a revolution in wearable products, the next frontier in consumer electronics – 2014 will be seen as the year that wearable technology started to go mainstream.”

The year 2015 would be the year of Wearable Devices as most of the electronics giants, including Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd. (KRX:005930), are expected to introduce most of their revolutionary wearable gadgets in the said year. However, after 2015, the market is expected to record some decliner, as estimated by NPD Display Report some time back.

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